“Dom, your engine is throbbing!” Fast and Furious is out on DVD, a trip back in time, to a simpler time, a time when Limp Bizkit was popular, and import racing was fresh and exciting and new! The Fast and the Furious started an epic love story, between two men who were too fast to care. Make no mistake, their eight years apart were so very lonely, but now they are finally back together, at long last. This fabled romance is of course between Dominic ‘Dom(inant)’ Torreto, industrious street racer and organized crime boss, and erstwhile cop Brian ‘Spilner’ O’Connor, who is now on the FBI side of his regular polar swings between criminality and the law.
Oh woe is the Fast and Furious fan these long years, expecting a true sequel (this sequel), which should have come out in 2003. But fate is fickle, and we had to go through two agonizing installments waiting for this epic event. While Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift was patently awful, director Justin Lin is pretty great filling in the long vacant shoes of Rob Cohen, who was uncomfortably obsessed with Paul Walker’s ‘beauty.’ Don’t believe me? Listen to Cohen’s commentary on the first The Fast and the Furious DVD. Cohen also likened Vin Diesel to a bear, and maybe it is Cohen who planted the seed of homosexual subtext in this franchise. This movie isn’t really about whether muscle cars or import cars are better (who gives a shit? Does anyone reading this actually race around their city at night? Leave a comment if you do!), its about the love between Dom and O’Connor. It was love at first sight, and those emotions have been pent up for a long time.
But how did we end up here? O’Connor loved Dom so much that he gave up his badge and orange Supra, so Dom could escape to South America. O’Connor escaped Los Angeles to Miami, where he was able to easily get his badge back by taking down a Tony Montana wannabe with his old pal Roman ‘Rom (Dom?)’ Pierce, who was similarly bald. Vin Diesel reportedly wanted $30 million for 2 Fast 2 Furious, he was at the apex of his career, and the studio balked. After all, they could get scrappy Paul Walker for a pittance, and throw in an interchangeable wise cracking streetwise ethnic sidekick, at a fraction of the cost, for good measure. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I bet Vin Diesel never thought he would be making Fast and Furious sequels 8 years later. Rob Cohen also thought his success with the Fast and the Furious meant he knew everything about the adolescent male demographic, helming classic cinema like XXX and Stealth. Oh yes Rob Cohen, we adolescent males will give a shit about your talking fighter jet if he listens to Incubus and pirates music. Bah! Have I gone on a tangent?
Anyhow, Justin Lin does an admirable job picking up the pieces that time left behind, and making a good Fast and Furious movie. Paul Walker does not care about his role. In the DVD extras, his reasoning for reprising the part is, “why not?” Vin Diesel takes himself way to seriously as usual, and the involvement of Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez are only a lie. In one really awful scene, O’Connor sleeps with Brewster’s character, Dom’s sister, because she is a female analog of Dom himself. Thus, she is only there to expose the misplaced sexual psychosis of O’Connor’s character, shown half-heartedly and crudely having intercourse with her on the kitchen counter, while Dom works on his car just outside. This lack of interest in the character has its ups though; while racing his car down an embankment, Walker says, “sorry car,” a line so perfectly ridiculous it could only be flippant improvisation. Paul Walker doesn’t care at all; he queried Justin Lin if they could just kill his character this time around, but the movie was so successful that a sequel is nearly guaranteed. So, O’Connor lives to race another day, and if they had killed him (in an explosion and out of sight of the audience) he would have come back from the dead anyway.
The story is a derivative mish mash of 2 Fast 2 Furious drug bosses, who place way too much stock in using illegal import street racing for transpo, and narrative conceits of the first film. Seriously, brightly colored tuner cars are not the best way to keep a low profile when smuggling drugs and cash. The action is top notch, a big step forward from previous efforts, hugely entertaining at best, painfully stupid at worst. Braga, drug kingpin du jour, makes everyone race for the chance to drive his drugs over the border. He provides ridiculous talking 3D GPS units, complete with scantily clad graphics. O’Connor, who is still in the employ of the FBI, has no problem causing mayhem and terror on the crowded city streets. It would have been a nice touch if a family of four all died when a bright yellow Acura careened into their minivan, sparking an inferno and a slow and painful death. Dom and O’Connor would only give their dying screams a furtive glance as they raced for the finish line. I’m only joking, but think of all the idiot teenagers who ripped their cars in half impersonating this racing behavior. There are helpful PSAs sponsored by Pennzoil where O’Connor tells everyone to ‘keep it legal’, but who is he kidding. Oh well, all of those kids dead before their time are just sacrifices on the altar of Fast and Furious.
The film punches along, dropping out of the California sunshine of the first two films, where even on screen death was light and candy colored, and into the dark tone of imminent murder. That is, until the two main characters redeem themselves in the light of day in a reasonably good last act. I don’t know how much Subaru paid to have Walker drive their car, but it wasn’t enough. That is one ugly car. But still, it’s the interplay of Dom and Brian’s love that is the heart of this movie. When the two have a lover’s spat, Dom gives O’Connor a loving pile driver, as O’Connor bears down on his head. Sure Dom’s girlfriend got killed working for O’Connor, but maybe he is glad she is finally out of the way. And maybe O’Connor got her killed on purpose so he could finally have Dom to himself.
I wish there were some deleted scenes to tell us, but there are none. There is a prequel short called Los Bandeleros, which is really, really bad. Diesel directed the short, trying to relive his glory days, not just of break out roles, but also of independent cinema. He tries so hard to make this schlock look artsy, with close ups of rugged peasants and gritty Dominican Republic locales. Would his shiny muscle car last that long in the third world? I think not. But much worse than the flailing attempts at art, is the consistently boring content. Nothing happens, and it seem like Diesel is trying to imply he is in touch with a peasantry he knows nothing about. The rest of the extras are the usual DVD crap we have all come to know and love, where they play a bunch of clips from the movie you just watched and tell you what you already know.
Still, the pictures and sound are great. They’ve just about reached the limit of what they can fit on a dual disc DVD and it shows. No complaints in the AV department, but they call them extras because they suck extra hard. There is even a digital copy, if you’re a glutton for punishment. Buy it at target and you get a horrible edited soundtrack, if you’re into Daddy Yankee; Best Buy offers a bonus disc with inane extras that should really be included with the film; Wal-Mart offers a Dom diamond encrusted crucifix necklace with every purchase (ok, they don’t really offer a Dom diamond encrusted crucifix necklace, but they should). So there it is; a worthy sequel to the first film and the most powerful movie of man love in a long time. We all know it will end with those two riding off into the sunset.