Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In Asphalt, Nitrous, and Rubber: Fast Five (2011)

“The men we’re after are professional runners. They like speed and are guaranteed to go down the hardest possible way, so make sure you got your thunderwear on. We find them, we take them as a team, and we bring them back. And above all else we don’t ever, ever let them into cars.”

So there’s this movie, but it’s more than just a movie. See, there were all these other movies that introduced its lovable characters and built up a sustainable world, all leading up to this one huge movie that brought them all together, and it’s the greatest fucking thing you’ve ever seen. And it happened in 2011, a year before The Avengers.
            Yes, F&F brought its universe together first, and they did it better. Assembled from the disparate reaches of F&F lore, our automotive heroes unite to face not one, but two antagonists, one of whom is the Rock! Ever the scrappers, the team isn’t equipped with helicarriers and jet thingies, but they do have an RC car camera, some bikini bottoms, a bunch of cars, and the relentless desire to entertain.
            Who is our assembled cast, and from whence do they hail? The run down:
·         The Fast and the Furious’ Dom, Brian, Mia, and Vince
·         2 Fast 2 Furious’ Roman and Tej
·         The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift’s Han
·         Fast & Furious’ Gisele, Rico, and Tego
What’s kind of notable is how diverse this crew is. How is that notable? Big time studios have said that the issue is that, because of overseas markets, a white cast is required to get the proper return on investment, logic that’s ended up being parroted by racist internet nerds. Why would someone think parroting the words of a big time company would make them look smart and savvy? Who knows. Anyway, Fast Five, in spite of an apparently ruinous cast demographic, was a huge hit, basically showing what should be obvious to anyone with a brain—don’t accept a giant company’s justifications at face value.
Arriving on this scene is Luke Hobbs. Now, I have an extensive list of peeves in modern movies, and among them is the uncritical treatment, fetishization, and even deification of the military, closely tied to the neo-conservatives. Hobbs is a pretty damn great satire of this mindset. Starting with his perpetual sheen and the fact that he’s played by the Rock, he’s a human action figure, spewing a hearty blend of macho aggression and quasi-military jargon, backed by a gang of largely anonymous dudes in fatigues with guns strapped to their chests, he’s the ideal of Bay and Rumsfeld alike (except that he isn’t blonde haired and blue eyed) who has stalwartly served the US of A without question in countless movies. Yeah, Hobbs is actually an agent of the Diplomatic Security Service, but he looks and acts like innumerable SEALs, berets, recons, Delta Forcers, and GI Joes (wait, who was in the last one of those?).
Here he’s the ugliest of Americans.
Hobbs descends on a foreign land that he instantly starts bludgeoning. His mission is misguided and false, and he goes about it in a huge, obvious APC, with little understanding or regard for the political realities and conditions around him, which ends up getting his team of anonymous dudes killed. Where, even behind the wheel of an American muscle beast, the crew is all about finesse and cleverness, Hobbs smashes or waves a gun.
The crew, citizens of the world, aren’t much for neo-con regime change. They’re out for themselves, and the movie doesn’t make many bones about that. Reyes’ money is their target because he has a lot of it, and mostly because he pissed them off. While Elena talks a bit about conditions in the favelas, the movie doesn’t indulge in any fantasies of the crew’s interference improving, or even particularly changing things there (indeed, Hobbs in the one who actually kills Reyes). In the end, they are able to support Vince’s widow and child, and leave Rio to fix its own problems, a few corrupt cops lighter and a drug fortune lighter.
I had to think long and hard about all that, because Fast Five short circuits my brain enough that I was tempted to just breathlessly describe its awesomeness, Andy Dwyer-style. That bus crash should have totally killed Dom, but it didn’t, because of course it couldn’t! Dom is fighting the dudes in the train while Brian is fighting the dudes on the truck until the truck crashes into the train and catches fire! So then Brian has to jump from the flaming truck wreckage to the weird Vette Dom just jumped out of the train before the wreck hits the bridge, then they both have to jump from the cliff before they get smashed by the wreck! There’s a huge foot chase, and the instant it’s done, Mia finally announces she’s pregnant! Roman’s a better Fed than Brian, and Tej is a circuit man now! Gisele captures a handprint with her ass! Han’s still effortlessly cool! Rico and Tego blow up a men’s room like it’s The Goonies! Hobbs crushes Dom’s Charger (of course), so Dom nearly beats him to death! There’s a quarter-mile drag race with million dollar stakes! The crew comes to Hobbs’ rescue, using his team’s fancy guns, and Vince is the one with the weird SMG! After winning a bunch of fast cars and test driving them to time things right through a security camera window, the crew just says “Fuckit, let’s smash through a wall!” They use a bank safe like a flail! No joke, Fast Five is one of my favorite action movies ever, an evergreen, eminently watchable delight I’d put up there with the likes of Raiders, Aliens, The Road Warrior, Wrath of Khan, Predator, The Raid, and Terminator 2. It’s one of those movies I instinctively clap for.
How awesome is this movie? I haven’t even mentioned that Reyes is played by Joaquim de Almeida, Hollywood’s best and favorite drug lord, meaning he’s tangled with Harrison Ford, el Mariachi, and Jack Bauer! Awesome!

I Laughed: Roman and Tej waste no time: “When you going to give Martin Luther King his car back?”
“As soon as you give Rick James his jacket back.”

Car This Not-Quite Car Guy Would Take: My automotive philosophy is that I’d avoid a fancy car until I could afford one that’s stupid fancy. The absurd kind. No mere baseline Porche for 60 grand, it has to be something ridiculous. By this standard, either Roman or Tej’s dueling Koenigsegg CCXRs fit nicely.

The Stinger: Marvel/Disney are credited with making Stingers standard (even if, you know, the first movie showed us after the credits that Dom made it to Baja), as part of the hype machine. FF’s stinger has Eva Mendes returning to pass Hobbs intel on a crack European driving crew who includes…Letty? Letty who is supposed to be fucking dead!? A+, Hyped!

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