Worlds & Time

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Furiously Fast

The Fast and the Furious has a 51% at Rotten Tomatoes, but I happen to think that's underrating it. Granted, it's pretty and shiny and marketed to people that like fast cars and explosions, but there are definitely some themes are that very not the standard fare.

The little bit of plot that can be wedged in between the fast cars, trucks, and motorcycles revolves around an undercover cop looking for a group of mysterious drivers that are hijacking semis of electronics.

The cops suspect that a local drag racing gang is responsible for the hijacks, so the undercover cop ingratiates himself to the leader of the racing gang. At the same time he falls for the leader of the racing gang's beautiful and innocent sister, and finds that there is an evil Asian racing gang that is at war with the gang he's gone undercover with.

(At this point I want to mention that this movie features three actors that are at least pretty to look at: Vin Diesel [yay D&D players!], Paul Walker, and Paul Walker's abs. The last is seriously underused, which is a shame considering that they're the second best actor of the three. Michelle Rodriguez is also in it. Before her drunk driving conviction incidentally, but I don't like looking at her and I'm not exactly impressed with her acting skills.)

Everyone should know what the end of the movie should be. Or at least I thought I did. The undercover cop discovers that the evil Asians are really the ones responsible for the hijackings, and the cop calls on his racing gang buddies to somehow prove through racing that the Asians are responsible. He ends up dating the racing gang leader's sister, and they all drive off happily ever after.

That's not even remotely what happens. The undercover cop does suspect that the Asians are responsible (after all, they torched his car and killed another member of his racing gang) but when the police raid the Asian's garage they find nothing suspicious. They're just rich Asians.

Instead, he finds out that it is his drag racing gang is responsible for the hijackings. In fact, they're out doing a hijacking right now and thing are going completely wrong. The cop tries to help, and indeed saves one of their lives but Instead of solving the case, the undercover cop has blown it completely.

At the end, they drag race (to see if they can beat a train! Yay action flick confluence of events!). Once again, you think you know how the story is supposed to go: if the bad guy wins, he gets away, and if the cop wins, the bad guy gets arrested.

Nope. They both beat the train but the gang leader looses control and has an accident. Instead of arresting the gang leader, the undercover cop decides to give the leader his car. Now they're both on the run, and the undercover cop is now a rogue cop.

Then the movie ends. No redemption for him. He doesn't solve the case. He doesn't kill the bad guys (well, he does kill the Asians). Not only did he fail his mission, but he's a bad guy now (until the second movie, which deals with all these problems in about twenty seconds of dialog, proving once again how much sequels [and prequels] suck if they're not part of the original plan).

The movie plays with a lot of deeply ingrained stereotypes to confuse the issue of who is good and who is bad. Instead of the two dimensional bad guy that most movies of this nature have, the gang leader's character is explored more than any other. He's charismatic, he's strong, he treats his people well and he talks about how his father died in a car crash. And he says grace before meals. Faithful Christians are never supposed to be the bad guys in popular Hollywood movies.

There are also the Asians, who are the two dimensional bad guys that bad guys are supposed to be. They're . . . you know, Asian. And rich. And they're not in love with the leader's sister. Again, in big budget Hollywood movies, the bad guys are rarely the white guys when you have an easily blamed minority present. (Although, they're not totally innocent. They are killers, and in the end the uncover cop helps kill them instead of arresting them. So there is some obvious racism. The movie isn't perfect.)

I think the favorite part of the movie are the questions that it raises about how you know people. Paul Walker's undercover cop has one of those gut feelings. You know the ones. The gut feelings that the cops in cop shows and movies have that inexplicably lead them to the solve the case without any false leads or mis-steps.

He uses the same clues that the audience is given to make decisions about the people he interacts with, and he makes the same snap judgment that we make watching the movie. In the end, an hour or an hour and a half isn't enough time to get to know someone. It's the people that you've known for years that you really know.

For a movie about car chases, explosions and gun fights, that's an awfully deep subtext. Except for the racism and the dearth of Paul Walker's abs, this is actually a good movie. Whoever wrote the first draft of this story, and not the fairly horrific street dialog did a good job. There are three people listed on IMDB for the screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer. Kudos to whoever wrote the good stuff.

Update: Ah . . . the wonders of the internet. The three stars of "The Fast and the Furious."

Vin Diesel

Paul Walker

and Paul Walker's Abs

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