Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Curiouser and Furiouser: A Fast and Furious Watch - Part 4: Fast & Furious

Here we are at the 4th part of my Fast and the Furious watch. If you are just joining us, I have never seen any of the movies in this series before and am going into them as blind as I can. On to the review of Fast & Furious, a movie that requires an ampersand so as to distinguish it from the first film in the franchise because for some reason Fast and 4rious was not an option.

Ugh.  Ugh is pretty much all I have to say about this movie.  After watching the previous two, I am convinced that what I need from Fast and Furious movies to keep me engaged is humor.  This movie is almost entirely devoid of it.  That, more than anything else, is its biggest problem. Another problem with this movie is that it essentially combines the plot of the first two Fast and Furious movies, making it feel bland and tired.  

The story begins with Dom and his gang trying to pull off another heist of a truck, just as they did in the first movie. This time instead of hilariously outdated TV/ VCR combos it looks like they are trying to steal fuel? I don’t even understand why they are doing this or how they will sell the fuel or transport it or what.
Iguana driver: the real hero
This seems even more convoluted than TV/VCRs.  Whatever, it is an excuse for a high speed chase with street racing cars going after a truck and explosions and things.  Only two things make this whole scene worth watching.  The first is that the driver of the truck has a pet iguana who sits in the passenger seat and whom the driver feeds bars of chocolate (aka the only funny part in this movie), and the second is that one of the drivers in Dom’s crew is MOTHERFUCKING HAN!!  Anyway there is some problem stealing the fuel tanks and Letty has to dramatically jump from the back onto Dom’s car and then the truck explodes and they basically have to time the roll and drive underneath the fiery rolling truck which sounds cool but was
Come back!!! 
just… whatever.  The problem with scenes like these is that there is no dramatic tension when you know that this is the opening of the film and all the good guys are going to make it out.  Plus there was not NEARLY enough Han. Everybody goes back to Dom’s place and has a big butt jiggling dance party.  Woot.  I was so excited to see Han alive that I almost gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, until it was revealed that this heist took place before the events of Tokyo Drift and Han left after the first ten minutes.  Whomp whomp.

It really is a shame that Han left for Tokyo because his energy, or the energy of Tyrese or Ludacris or any of the other characters from the previous two films, would have definitely helped the film move along.  Instead the movie basically only has three characters: Dom, Brian, and Mia, and Dom/ Brian’s chemistry (or lack thereof) is not enough to carry a film.  Anyway, back to the movie. After the events of the opening heist, Dom leaves Letty and the rest of his crew behind.  He is a wanted man, wanted for a lot of big crimes, and he is worried about their safety.  He goes to Panama where he is happily fixing cars/ living a quieter life until he gets a call from Mia informing him that Letty was murdered.  Cut over to Brian in LA who has been reinstated and is now an FBI agent.  I guess they didn’t care about all those illegal shenanigans and let bygones be bygones.  He is chasing down some dude to get a lead on a big drug dealer named Braga.  The only thing he got was a name: David Park.  

Rollin' up to the funeral in style
Letty’s funeral is a somber affair and Brian, though he knew Letty, stands off to the side since he wasn’t exactly invited.  Dom has also returned to LA and views Letty’s funeral from a distance.  The police are all around the cemetery: they know Dom would come back from his ex-girlfriend and they are waiting to catch him.  Dom shows up at Mia’s and she is simultaneously happy to see him after such a long time (5 years presumably) but also worried since the police are watching the house.  Dom tells her not to worry, but he has to find the man who killed Letty.  Something tells me this is connected to that Brian plot from before.  Anyway it looks like Mia has salvaged part of Dom/ Dom’s dad’s old Dodge Charger that got wrecked up in the first film, and had been fixing it up along with Letty.  I don’t think that will have any impact on the rest of the story whatsoever.  Mia takes Dom to the site of Letty’s murder and Dom, using some magical Sherlockian power of crime scene investigation that we heretofore were unaware he possessed, discovers that based on the burn pattern and the tire marks the car that crashed into Letty's had a nitro methane injection and only one guy in town does that.  Yes because the same guy is the only guy who did things 5 years ago while you were in Panama and you can tell that from the burn marks. Whatever.  Angry Vin Diesel Sherlock is angry.  

Whatever, dude
The cops pull Mia in to ask her questions about Dom and Brian pulls her out of the interrogation room and brings her to lunch.  But she isn’t having any of his nicey-nicey bullshit.  “After 5 years now you care about me?” she exclaims.  I totally don’t blame her here.  Brian seemed to have feelings for Mia in the first movie, but after leaving LA behind in the second movie and since returning to LA as a fed why would he think she would give two shits about him.  Go Mia.  You smack talk that dude.  Still, Brian is worried for Dom because he cares about him.  Mia asks him whether he is a good guy pretending to be bad or a bad guy pretending to be good and Brian isn’t sure.  What is sure is that he wished Dom would have just stayed safe outside the country so he could catch Letty’s killer on his own.  

Dom shows up at the guy’s garage and starts intimidating him and gets the info:  David Park bought those parts for a green Ford Gran Torino.  Oh ho! Now we are getting somewhere.  Brian discovers the info about David Park’s whereabouts at around the same time and he shows up at Park’s apartment to see Dom beating the guy up and holding him out the window.  Uh oh. The guy doesn’t have much info to give Dom anyway, only that he can get Dom in the race, whatever plot devicey race he is referring to.  Brian hauls Park into the station and discovers that Braga the drug kingpin who is worse than Pablo Escobar according to the head honchos (the metric of all drug dealing badasses) is holding a street race to find new drivers.
Dom channeling his inner Batman
 So basically we are back to the plot of
2 Fast 2 Furious where Brian has to get a fancy street race car from the cops so he can race in a drug lord’s street race so he can get on his crew.  Like I get this movie is kind of a reboot, but redoing the exact same plot point?  Sigh…  

Dom shows up at the illegal race too because of course he does they both want to get on the guy’s crew to find Letty’s killer/ take down the drug lord.  One of the other racers asks who is closing the street to which Campos, Braga’s supposed number 2, tells him that nobody is.  The fact that the streets are busy definitely heightens the tension a little bit.  Also the racers don’t know where they are going, they just have to follow this magical GPS device that Campos gives them.  The device not only gives directions, but tracks the other cars in the race so basically this is a straight up video game now.  Like there is even a digital girl that throws the flag and the cars move along on the screen all Tron-like and the movie isn’t even pretending it is anything more than a video game/ Universal Studios ride at this point.
Coming to an arcade near you
 Brian takes an alternate route and goes off a cliff while Dom is dealing with some of the other racers and blah blah blah we all know this is going to come down to Dom and Brian duking it out.  Dom pulls basically a pit maneuver and spins Brian’s car around and wins the race. Brian, who needs to be on the crew for plot purposes, conveniently plants drugs at the house of one of the other crew members and takes his place.  Because federal agents planting narcotics on a suspect is a-ok when it is Paul Walker who does it.  

This chick was so boring
Whatever, they all go to Campos’ headquarters for a booty shaking party where girls make out and other fun stuff happens.  Brian sneaks around and discovers Campos talking to an older man he presumes to be Braga.  He manages to swipe his glass so they can run prints on it.  Dom is sneaking around too and finds in the garage the Gran Torino driven by Letty’s killer.  Gisele, one of Campos’ assistants, informs Dom that the car belongs to Fenix so now he’s got the name of the dude who killed his gal and he is out for blood.  Gisele is trying to flirt pretty hard, but Dom is 100% not having any of it either because he is still pining over Letty, still pining over Brian, or just isn’t into her.  Whatever this gal was boooring.

Anyway, they all meet up at a warehouse for the next job and the henchmen start sweeping cars for bugs, which of course Brian’s car has so he furiously tries to unplug it.  Why didn’t they think this might be a problem before?  Like this is wearing a wire 101.  Brian is the worst cop ever.  Thankfully they didn’t find anything on his car and everyone is loaded into a big truck inside their cars and then taken over the border to Mexico.  This whole thing was super super confusing.  So they took these drivers out to the middle of nowhere in mexico so that they could take drugs back in?
Look out for bonus coins during the
underground level!
 They wanted them to race through the desert fast to avoid the heat scanners from the border patrol but I am so confused why they would need to do this at all.  It makes no sense.  They are following Gisele’s instruction through the magical video game GPS and then follow Fenix in this zig zag pattern and then drive into these underground tunnels that exist for no purpose except that it is like the underground level of a video game now. I also think maybe somebody saw those tight races in the parking garages in Tokyo Drift and realized they needed some confined spaces for drama. But it literally made no sense whatsoever.  

Bro buddies again
They all get out and make it to the drop off point and then Fenix etc plan to kill them?  Why?  I don’t get it.  None of this whole sequence made the slightest lick of sense.  Anyway, thankfully Dom wanted to kill Fenix so badly that he rigged the nitrous in his car to explode and then all the cars blow up and Dom and Brian, who are friends again, drive the drugs away in a Hummer or whatever.  Except Fenix didn’t die.  Oh well.  I don’t know why these drug dealers needed this street racing crew when they had underground tunnels, I don’t know why they wanted to kill them in the first place when they didn’t know they were working for the police, and I don’t know why Brian thought it was a good idea to take the drugs and hide them in the impound lot while Dom kindly stole him a new car.  Brian is kind of the worst cop on the planet.  His bosses at the FBI are naturally pissed when they see him on camera with Dom because of course they did.  

Anyway it is a good thing Brian is the worst cop on the planet because that means that Dom trusts him again and they all go back home for dinner and fun banter.  That is of course until Dom, who had been going through Letty’s old things that were in evidence, finds her phone and calls the last number because it still miraculously has batteries, and Brian’s phone rings.  Yep, Letty had been working as a CI for Brian and it was under these circumstances that she was killed by Braga’s men.  Dom is pissed and beats the shit out of Brian, even though he tries to explain that Letty was the one who came to him with the idea because other people were being killed by this asshole.  Vin Diesel spends most of this movie very angry.  

Brian goes to his bosses (who are still pissed off) and tells them he will give them the heroin he stole from Campos IF after he bags Braga they let Dom off the hook for his crimes.  Brian, do you even understand how the police work?  They plan this very elaborate set up for Braga, whom they assume is that old guy Brian saw before, but while they are just about to shoot up the deal, one of the other officers discovers that Campos was Braga all along.  Whomp whomp.
Fooled you 
 Dom saves the Gisele chick while everybody is under fire and Brian and Dom escape just by the skin of their teeth.  Braga unfortunately as escaped to Mexico which is out of their jurisdiction.  The bosses are pissed at Brian so they pull him off active duty, except also sort of imply that since he isn’t active duty it would be totally ok if he went all vigilante in Mexico, which of course is exactly what he and Dom do.  Dom and Brian meet up with Gisele, who is grateful that Dom saved her and also totally still flirting with him even though he doesn’t show the slightest bit of interest in her, and she lets them know where Braga is hiding.  

Braga/ Campos is inside a church and pays off a priest to hang out there.  Then Dom and Brian easily walk in and get him at gunpoint.  Now yes, there is a chase/ gunfight that follows, but I was really surprised that Braga didn’t have any guards around him at all.  Whatever.  So Braga is pretty sure that Dom is going to kill him but Dom has decided that the braver thing to do would be to actually bring him into the police instead, though he is totally gonna kill Fenix for killing Letty because of course he is.  They grab Braga and throw him in a car and then they are off to cross the border.  Fenix and some of the other henchpeople are right behind them, firing at the car until Fenix yells at them that they
It is going to be hard getting of out this one.
You will though.  Of course you will. 
could hit the boss instead.  Braga rightfully points out that Brian really has no idea where he is going without GPS, though Brian somehow miraculously finds his way to the secret underground tunnel for another underground tunnel race because of course he could remember where that was located in the middle of nowhere in the desert without any GPS or anything.  They take out a few of the guys chasing but Dom is having a hard time with Fenix.  Brian, with Braga in his car, tears through the other side of the wall, but it was really hard on the car and Brian is in pretty bad shape.  Fenix is right behind him and is just about to shoot Brian when who should come but Dom who plows his car right into Fenix, pinning him against Brian’s car, killing him fairly quickly.  Hurray they stopped the bad guys.  Unfortunately, the police are on their way and that can only mean bad things for Dom who actually doesn’t have carte blanche to murder people.  Brian is hurt though, a bullet wound to the shoulder, and Dom, instead of just leaving him to escape, stays with him and decides to face the consequences of his actions.

In a boring courtroom scene the judge, probably the only person with any sense at all, decides not to just forgive Dom for murdering people, stealing a bunch of property, destroying cars etc, even though he helped out this one time and sentences him to 25 years to life without the possibility of parole.  Brian is surprised because he somehow thinks the system works?  The same system he used to plant drugs on a guy so he could get into an illegal street race?
Ooh a cliffhanger ending.
Whatever will happen?!
 The same system that took his badge after he let Dom go in the first movie?  Brian is just too dumb for words.  Thankfully, he teams up with Mia and the rando other drivers from the beginning of the movie to pull of the greatest heist of all: stealing Dom from the prison transport truck, which they most likely do sometime in between the credit sequence of this movie and the next.

So there ya go.  This movie was a pretty big disappointment.  I have to say the only thing good to come out of it is that it seems that Brian is well and truly on the side of criminals now and cannot hope to get back to working for the police/ FBI.  If somehow in Fast 5 he is still working for the police I don’t even know… Otherwise, the movie was just a big rehash of everything we saw before, with a few more video game-ish looking sequences tossed in for more measure.  It was missing a lot of the joy and silliness of 2 Fast, or the interesting cultural aspects/ fish out of water elements and Han-tasticness of Tokyo Drift.  One of the other problems was that Dom and Letty’s relationship never felt that strong in the first place and so the aspect of this film as revenge story just didn’t feel genuine.  Hell, I felt more emotion between Keanu Reeves and his dog in 5 minutes of John Wick than I did between Dom and Letty.  I just didn’t care.  I don’t know if this was the fault of the writers, the acting of Vin Diesel or Michelle Rodriguez or what, but it just didn’t work.  If, for example, Fenix had killed Mia instead I think then I would have appreciated the anger and revenge story a little more. I’m not even going to go into the idea of fridging a female character to motivate a male lead, as such misogyny is sort of par for the course in these kinds of films.  But if they ARE going to fridge a female character they should at least make it worthwhile.

I’m excited by the prospect of Fast 5 only insomuch as it seems like they are bringing all the good parts of the previous movies back.  The advertising for 5, 6 and 7 definitely feel more Expendables except with street racing which is what I am really looking forward to after seeing the same movie on repeat.  

Stray Thoughts:

- Man oh man we needed some levity in this movie.  These films just do NOT work as straight dramas without some gags like giant sumo wrestlers or Tyrese eating everyone’s food

- The video game-ishness of this film is something I keep coming back to again and again.  I have actually seen the Fast and Furious arcade game and I was surprised how much the game looks like the movie or vice versa.

- I really hope that iguana from the beginning is okay. The driver was so brave to rescue him from that fiery crash.

No comments: