Friday, September 25, 2015

Establishing a pace

In my (so far) least enjoyable series of 2015, I'm checking back in with you on my progress through the Fast & Furious movies, this time with the one actually called Fast & Furious.

Way back when the latest, #7, was first released in March or April, I committed to catching up with the series by the end of the year in order to rank that movie with my 2015 movies. It was a glum proposition, though. It took me forever to finally throw on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and that lackluster viewing experience made me really wary about episode # 4, Fast & Furious.

Fortunately, this even more lackluster viewing experience won't daunt me to watch Fast Five, which is when I understand this series finally gets good. Or better, anyway. (I'm guessing The Rock has something to do with that.)

In fact, it's allowing me to establish a pace.

Now that I've dragged my heels so much on doing this, I know I must watch an average of one of these movies a month if I want to reach my goal. That's doable. I can watch Fast Five in October, The Fast and the Furious 6 in November and Furious 7 in December/January -- before my ranking deadline in mid-January, anyway. It's doable.

The fact that these movies start clocking in at more than two hours gives me some pause, but I'll manage.

As dull as I found Fast & Furious to be -- and I found it pretty dull -- it also has the much-anticipated function of establishing a narrative pace within this series. Now all the main character elements that are in place for the rest of the series are actually back on board, and presumably, everything that happens from here on out has a direct relationship to everything else. This could not be said of the last two movies, only the first of which had Paul Walker and only the second of which had Vin Diesel -- and only in a one-minute cameo at the end. (If he were willing to do a cameo, I wondered at the time I saw it a couple months ago, why didn't he just do the whole damn movie? Wasn't his willingness always the issue? Wasn't it that he thought these movies were beneath him?)

In fact, Tokyo Drift was so different from this series' timeline that it makes me wonder why they bothered to have any connective tissue between the third and fourth installments whatsoever. But indeed, the character of Han (Sung Kang) from Tokyo Drift shows up for the opening heist in Fast & Furious, definitely its best set piece and probably its best section overall. After he hands off the baton, they send him on his way.

What follows is a very ho-hum revenge tale set in the world of drag racing, as Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is killed (off-screen) and it's up to Dom (Diesel) to avenge her. For the longest time, though, I had difficulty being sure that she was actually the character who died, so little emotion does Diesel show over her death. Maybe Diesel didn't want to repeat his grieving excesses in A Man Apart, but he shows little more than a scowl upon learning that she died and upon dispassionately watching her funeral from afar. Justin Lin's directing is terrible in this way throughout, as Walker's line deliveries felt particularly stilted as well. And Walker is (or was) a pretty good actor, probably better than Diesel, who isn't offering much of an effort these days.

But let's get back to Letty's death for a minute. Having been privy to the advertising campaigns for the subsequent installments of this series, I happen to know that Rodriguez appears in them, so I was expecting her death to be revealed as a hoax by the end of the movie. Nope. So now I'm wondering how this series brings her back, whether it's ultimately revealed that she faked her death, or whether they're going the soap opera route by giving her a twin sister.

For the first time in this series -- both the series of movies, and in my 2015 viewing series -- I actually look forward to finding out.

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