When I tell people I’m really into the Fast and the Furious movies, I usually get a bewildered look, followed by people asking if I mean that I’m into them ironically. When I inform people that I don’t really buy into liking things ironically, the baffled looks get even worse. Maybe this isn’t as true after Fast Five walked away with a whole boat-full of money in 2011, but I’ve been on board since Tokyo Drift and I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to talk about what I like about this most-unfairly-maligned and under-watched of modern cinematic franchises.
So welcome to Raging Rapidity, the season of Serious About Series where I get down on Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and the gang of street racers, cops, thieves, and other sundry ne’er-do-wells. This is not just to crack wise about how dumb Paul Walker is in general, but also to try to explain exactly why I’m so into this series and why I’ll be the first in line for Fast Six whenever it decides to come out this year.
Strap in, put on some sunglasses, and get ready to let those who are fast and those who are furious drift their way into your heart, one last job and one last quarter mile at a time.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
So the first Fast and the Furious movie was a big hit, and everyone decided that the best way to proceed was to go ahead and make a new one. Unfortunately, director Rob Cohen and star Vin Diesel were off making the equally stupid xXx, so everyone was forced to carry on without them and take frosty-tipped Paul Walker and put him firmly in the starring role. You might say that’s a terrible idea (and you’d be right). Though for the role of his partner, they scoured the entire world to find someone who was less believable on screen than him. And you know what? They succeeded. Enter Tyrese.
Tyrese (Gibson, for those of you who aren’t masters at singers-turned-actors trivai categories) plays Roman Pearce, Walker’s former friend who was put away once our hero went cop. So Roman is basically the poor man’s Dom, a racer/thief with temper control issues and a big chip on his shoulder from being sent to prison by someone he trusted. Unfortunately, Tyrese manages not one iota of gravitas, and instead turns Roman into something akin to comic relief compared to Walker’s bro-y self-seriousness.
To be fair, that’s in keeping with the rest of the movie. 2 Fast 2 Furious is much more lighthearted than the first one, a buddy cop movie about two crooks who are tasked with going undercover to bust some drug running (or something?) in order to get their extensive criminal records expunged. Along the way, there’s some boring intrigue about getting found out. Oh, and Eva Mendes is there, playing an FBI agent who goes deep deep undercover as the Big Bad’s girlfriend. Shocking nobody, both Tyrese and Paul Walker are into her. Even less shocking, she ends up hooking up with Paul Walker, leaving Tyrese to eat burritos the entire movie.
You think I’m kidding now.
2 Fast 2 Furious is a John Singleton movie, and displays the kind of lackadaisical mercenary direction that you’d expect from the guy who managed to ruin a Samuel L Jackson-led Shaft remake. 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t really a car movie, even though it features far more driving than the first. Instead, it’s basically Miami Vice, and I mean that both in tone and set up as Michael Mann’s own Miami Vice film. It manages to make it all feel like flabby comedy, drawing an already dull movie out with endless scenes of needless action. By the time the giant car chase unfolds at the end of the movie, I was left feeling exhausted that I had to sit through more set pieces. That’s the last thing you want for your big finish.
This is, to date, the worst of the Fast and the Furious movies. So you’ll forgive me if I’m brief about it.
Most Unintentionally Funny Bullshit, Bro
So the villain is an Argentinian drug smuggler named Carter Verone (thanks Wikipedia), who is played in slight bronze-face by Cole Hauser. That’s already enough to get him into this category, because Cole Hauser looks like the whitest man on earth even before he tries a faint South American accent. Even with his blatantHestoning of that shit, he’s only vaguely threatening because he is frequently seen trimming cigars like that bad guy from Darkman, though he never goes so far as to cut off anyone’s finger with his cigar cutter. No, Verone has far dumber ways to torture people.
Somehow along the way he ends up with a crooked cop in his employ, played by that paragon of crooked cops, Mark Boone Jr, slumming it in between Chris Nolan movies. Verone decides to mess him up as a lesson to Tyrese and Paul Walker that he is capable of messing them up if need be. He does this by taking off Mark Boone Jr’s shirt, dropping a live rat on his stomach, and then covering it with a bucket. That’s gross enough, but he then begins torching the bucket, driving the rat to supposedly burrow through Mark Boone Jr’s. Which is a really fucked up way to kill someone, if the movie didn’t cop out completely in the middle of everyone going into hysterics the moments it’s suggested.
I don’t mind that you want to make your villain a little cartoonish, but you can’t have everyone suddenly act like he ate a live baby the minute he thinks up an elaborate and probably unrealistic plan like that. It just doesn’t work. Instead, it makes everyone look bad, and Verone looks even worse because he can’t even be bothered to carry out his novel torture methods properly. You suck, Verone.
I’m No Expert, But Cars Probably Don’t Do That
The Dukes of Hazzard. No, seriously. Somewhere along the way, when they realized they didn’t know how to end the movie, someone turned to someone else and said “What if we just do a ‘Dukes of Hazzard’?” And nobody said no. I swear to you, this is the climax of the movie, coming at the end of a dull, 30 minute driving sequence. I don’t even have words; I’m just going to show you how dumb this is.
Just because the movie admits it’s doing The Dukes of Hazzard doesn’t make it okay.
The Slashfic Award for Best Homoerotic Moment (presented by Tumblr)
This is in some ways the most homoerotic movie. While it doesn’t feature the heaving testosterone of Vin Diesel or (heaven help us) The Rock, it does have Paul Walker and Tyrese fighting like old lovers who have one too many bad hookups between them, but ultimately kind of still care for one another. And boy does the movie ride hard on that, pitting them into shouting matches and fist fights that almost always look ready to break out into a bout of furious hugging and emo-teen crying.
But it truly descends into dewey-eyed longing at about the two thirds point where Tyrese and Paul Walker are standing on a pier reflecting on how different their lives have gone in the intervening years. Paul Walker mocks Tyrese for constantly eating burritos, which he’s been doing essentially the whole movie, because prop acting. Tyrese flexes his carefully sculpted model-arms that have been presented in an array of sleeveless shirts and cut off denim vests, and notes that he has a fast metabolism. Also that after being in prison, he’s going to take the chance to indulge in as many comfort pleasures on the outside as he can, convinced that someday he might end up back behind bars.
To this Paul Walker longingly nods, drawn in by Tyrese’s bad boy past, wondering if maybe he will fill the void that was left by Dom heading off to who knows where with his gang. Paul Walker, once a cop, now understands the allure of crime—he knows that Tyrese is playing with fire, but he likes fire. The two face each other in front of the setting sun, the waves crashing behind their chiseled silhouettes, and as Paul Walker turns to him Tyrese sets down his burrito and says “Enough of that, time for dess-”
Er, wait, what? Sorry. I don’t know what came over me.
How Much Fast is Too Fast? How Much Furious is Too Furious?