Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Fast and The Furious Week: Meet the Bizzaro Crew

Up until now, I’ve been pretty free with spoilers, since most of the Fast and the Furious movies have been out since the dawn of time itself.  I’m a little nervous as we move into Fast and the Furious 6, the first in the series that gave up the idea of trying to stylize the name. It did come out only two years ago, and in spoiler time, that’s like nothing. I guess I’m trying to say, spoiler alert.

            It’s important to start with a spoiler alert, because I’m going to address a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: Han. RIP, Han. Your death will hopefully mean something in the long run, but come on. Why the hell aren’t more people talking about the fact that Han’s death means we’re seeing a movie starring Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, and The Rock? I feel this should be blasted over every movie poster. Jason Statham. Vin Diesel. The Rock. The sheer awesomeness of these three forces combining into one movie is going to tear all of our collective faces off. And all it took was the death of Han, which finally puts Tokyo Drift into a better time context. (And means Sean is going to be in Furious 7. More on that tomorrow.)

            But I’m getting ahead of myself. Fast and the Furious 6 starts off with a twist… the road race between Dom and Brian slated at the end of Fast Five was not continuing, rather, they are racing to the hospital for the birth of Brian’s son. Which does lead one to ask the essential question: Yes, we get that you both like to drive, but maybe you carpool this this specific event. But this places the narrative nine months following the events of the last movie.

            Meanwhile… Luke Hobbs is still trying to figure out just who is robbing military transports, and the answer falls squarely on the head of a dude named Shaw, played by Luke Evans in his most non-Draculay role to date. Out of all options, he realizes the best way to stop a criminal is to think like a criminal, so he goes off to find Dom and gather his crew, promising them their freedom – with their millions of dollars – if they can help take Shaw down.

            At this point I’d like to point out that this will be the second (number two) time that Brian will need his name cleared. Rome, too, I guess, but he’s too likeable to not be pardoned ALL THE TIME.

            Obviously, they get back into the action, driven by the knowledge that Letty is now alive, but with amnesia, as she can no longer remember her previous life. Later, she and Dom bond over some light car racing, she rejoins the group just in time for a daring action sequence where they take down an airplane with a few cars.  This comes after a battle with a tank. Unfortunately, Gisele does not survive, sacrificing herself to save her love, Han.

            After they are given their freedom and a scene where they join together as family, we are treated to our final scene that I alluded to before. Han, on the streets of Tokyo, presumably having taught Sean all he needed to know to becoming the Drift King, is T-boned by a mysterious car. Jason Statham hops out, throws a necklace we saw Shaw with previously, and then let Dom know that he was coming for him… after the car explodes.

            As I’ve mentioned previously, the Fast and the Furious franchise has been one that is interested primarily with the relationship between Dom and Brian, forming sort of a family that they lead. And, the movies themselves have a complicated relationship with the law vs. “what is right.” When we first meet Dom, he is doing heists to get money. By Fast Five, the money is to provide for his family, mostly for Brian, Mia, and their child.  But they still embody that code of honor: they don’t really kill, and they will protect each other above all others.

            This movie takes the focus away from their relationship, and focuses a bit more on what their team could have become in an opposite world.  Quick nerd alert: I’m going to use the term “Bizzaro” to talk about Shaw and his crew. For those who don’t know, the Bizzaro World is from Superman, where everything is opposite. Hello is goodbye, up is down, good is bad. The Bizzaro Superman is the Superman who does bad, has a backwards S, and shoots ice out of his eyes. (No explanation of why he can fly…)

            Shaw and his crew, now with Letty, are the Bizzaro version of our intrepid band of heroes and their status as family. Rather than try to save someone who is captured, Shaw announces that the person must have done something wrong. Had that happened to Dom and his crew, they would have rushed in to save them. Essentially, this is the story about how Dom and Brian are the good guys, despite their addiction to fast cars and money. They just can’t be tamed by the law – something that they constantly reject because it stifles what they love. Shaw as a Bizzaro Dom certainly holds true during the end fight scene, which features each individual as they fight their Bizzaro world duplicate. It is also the reason that someone is finally able to take them down. Gisele dies for love, rather than selfishness. It’s a stark contrast to what we’ve seen before.

            Justin Lin, the director behind the rebirth of the franchise, could have easily made a spinoff movie that was simply Hobbs fighting against Shaw and his crew. And we would have watched, and despite the fact that Shaw was doing everything that Dom was, we would have rooted for Hobbs to win. (Not just because he’s played by the Rock, who should win everything, anyway.) This juxtaposition of characters is important, it reminds us that the spirit of family is what keeps these guys from being one note villians.

            This is never more evident than with the switching of Letty. Once again, we are presented with a character who, given any other circumstances, is now a “bad guy.” But even without her memory, even with trying to kill her former crew, when push comes to shove they stand up for her, because she’s part of the their family. Which is why she is never fully accepted by the Bizzaro Crew: because she can’t cut them loose when they threaten her. She needs a crew that she feels at home.

            And, after all of this, isn’t that what these movies are about? Finding a family you can stick with. Reconciling who you really are.

            Tomorrow: We say goodbye to Paul Walker and to Brian O’Conner.

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