2011 had its highlights and lowlights for us all, but there was something that made a real impact on me in the past year in ways I did not expect. There was a film that kicked off the Summer movie season in 2011, latest in a series that when I watched would change my life forever. I went from someone who did not care about even owning a motor vehicle to someone who gazes longingly at pictures of the Subaru Impreza WRX. I now want to race way past the speed limit, to power slide around tight corners, shift up and down gear constantly while wearing cool leather racing gloves.
Growing up in a quiet suburb in the North West of England, I never had much use for a car. School was always within walking distance or a bus/train ride away, my jobs I could walk to or ride my bike to, major cities were less than an hour away by train, I never learned to drive. Seven years ago I moved to the United States and one thing I had not considered was how much more dependent this nation is on automobiles. Coming from a tiny country smaller than some STATES on the USA, I could not fathom until I was here just how much of a larger scale this country was built on. But I got a job that was a bus journey away, and then my next job allowed me to get a ride every day, ignorance gave way to laziness, I still can’t drive. But Good God Almighty, now I really want to.
I went to see Drive Angry and it was a fine film, one of my favorites of last year but it was the trailer that preceded its screening that changed me forever:
Yeah, oh hell yeah, that’s a real movie.
I who had never even been interested in seeing the previous four films in this franchise but seeing this trailer sold me on not only seeing Fast Five but on catching up on the entire The Fast and the Furious series. To prepare for Fast Five and make sure I would not be totally lost and unable to follow the intricate Fast and the Furious storyline, I watched the first four movies in one day. Fast Five followed the day after. Where the hell had I been? How on earth did I not watch these movies sooner? Nowhere else have I ever seen such a reckless group of criminals with so little regard for human life be presented more heroic fashion! I learned so much from these films, like how all you need is to put the hood up on your car and you will be immediately surrounded by women in bikinis. I also discovered that these racers have these awesome cars that always had one more gear they could shift up to that lets them double their speed in 3 seconds. Why didn’t they just use that gear to start with?!
The Fast series has something of an Anti-Star Trek Movie Cycle where all of the odd-numbered movies in the series are good and the even-numbered ones are terrible. The Fast and the Furious was so absurdly serious and self-important and had so many fantastically-shot car sequences in it that it was impossible not to get wrapped up in it. I couldn’t tell you right now what the actual plot was but I remember Vin Diesel and Paul Walker sharing lots of “moments” and everybody either looking very sullen or yelling and screaming at each other. 2 Fast 2 Furious on the other hand was a ghastly mess of a film. lacking the cool charisma of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker was instead teamed up with Tyrese. The man is already extremely questionable in the acting department, but he was intensely irritating and was used as a sort of unofficial narrator who had to yell out plot developments and exposition at choice times throughout the movie in the most annoying manner possible. Eva Mendez was in the film though and by golly, she’s a very pretty lady. The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift jettisoned the original cast almost entirely save for a small cameo and instead told the story of Caleb from American Gothic as a trouble making high school student having to adjust to life in Japan. Something new I learned from this movie: everybody in Japan knows how to drift race. Apparently if you live near mountains in Japan you spend your nights with your friends drifting down twisting mountain roads. I enjoyed this movie very much, no small part because it introduced the coolest character of the whole franchise, the enigmatic Han. The less said about Fast and Furious the better however, it’s extremely dull with a bland storyline that even in the insane reality of these movies could be considered ridiculous. Michael Bay would describe it as “far-fetched.”
Fast Five, however, was a magnificent film and the best action movie I saw all year. It is utterly preposterous from beginning to end jam-packed with insane action set pieces that went beyond my expectations. What sets Fast Five and its director Justin Lin from a lot of other brainless action fodder trotted out by Hollywood every year was the use of practical effects and smart use of CGI that made the action more convincing. Sure, two Chevy Cameros cannot pull an enormous bank vault out of a building and then pull it through the streets of a major city, but Lin was smart enough to give the whole spectacle a real world weight and tangibility that made suspension of disbelief all the easier. There is also a scene earlier in the movie where the Fast crew is stealing cars off of a moving train which is absolutely superb and just excellently conceived and executed. So good are the action scenes you can forgive the extreme silliness of this film, nay you will revel in it! I also had a very strange reaction that I did not expect when watching Fast Five and that was my reaction to seeing Paul Walker come on screen. This man that I had previously accused of being Keanu Reeves without the personality appeared on screen and my involuntary reaction was to smile as if being reunited with a close friend I hadn’t seen for a long time.
So apparently I love Paul Walker now. I want to have a ride so it might one day be “pimped”, I wish to learn how one goes about “ghost riding” one’s “whip” and other various extremely outdated car phrases. What I’m trying to say is that watching all of the Fast movies in such a short space of time might very well have given me brain damage. The point of this article? I forget, I have to go watch Into the Blue, The Skulls and Running Scared while drinking totally awesome NOS energy drinks.