Monday, May 2, 2011

You can have any brew you want, as long as it's a Brahma

I don't know if you've seen 2009's Fast Ampersand Furious, but if you didn't, I'm about to spoil that shit, so skip to the third paragraph if you're all sensitive and shit. Anyway, to the best of my recollection of my single viewing of that film, the climax of the climax had Vin Diesel's character Dominic "'CUZ THE BUSTER KEPT ME OUTTA HANDCUFFS" Toretto smashing into Fenix, the piece-of-shit who killed his girlfriend Letty, and the audience at my showing was all Hell Yeah about it. Well, there was one guy next to me, he wasn't so cheery; he looked back at the crowd behind him and shook his head in disdain.

After the film, I asked him why he did that, and he told me that we all looked like assholes cheering the villain's demise, that it made us as bad as him and it wasn't going to change anything. He said that when all was said and done, criminals would still smuggle drugs with the use of high-speed vehicles, the War on Drugs will continue, and hell, there might even be repercussions from people who worked for Fenix. I told him that he might be right, it might not make a difference in the long run, but I bet you Toretto, Letty's family, (and the families of any other people Fenix killed, for that matter) feel a lot better knowing Fenix wasn't breathing anymore. He then gave me this smirk and brought up the fact that we never saw what they did with Fenix's body, so where's the proof that he was really killed in the first place and I was like Whatever, dude. I don't know why I felt like bringing that particular anecdote up, I just did, I guess.

Hello lady and gentleman, I'm going to ramble about the fifth film in the Vroom Vroom series of films that have the words "Fast" and/or "Furious" in the title. It's called Fast Five, and based on the box office reports, you've most likely seen it already. But in case you haven't, this one picks up where the last one left off, with a prison bus breakout that I'm sure has been described as "daring" by many others who've already written about this movie. I was expecting something very clever and elaborate, but I was wrong because it really just came down to causing that bus to flip over 17 times Another 48 Hrs. style and hope for the best that Toretto (one of the prisoners inside the bus) didn't get killed or Reeve'd up as a result.

Nope, homeboy survives (as do all the other passengers in the bus, believe it or not) and we then cut to sometime later in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, that is), with Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster driving through one of the many City of Gods they have in that fuckin' country; this is obviously one of the lesser City of Gods, because while there are plenty of gun-wielding youngsters running around, none of them are too young to drive and there isn't a Li'l Ze or Knockout Ned in the bunch.

Anyway, the Buster and Lady Toretto are both very good-looking but I'm glad I wasn't in that car, because you can just tell that shit must've smelled kinda ripe in there, I mean, it's a hot climate and I don't think they made that many stops or change of clothes, for that matter. They then meet up with fuckin' Vince "WHY'D YOU BRING THE BUSTER" I Don't Know His Character's Last Name from the first film and get down to setting up a new heist with the Domster, because fuck getting a day job.

All of this eventually leads to a bunch of motherfuckers looking for the Furious crew; a bunch of Brazilian bad guys led by Bucho from Desperado (although from the look of his waistline nowadays, he should be called Mucho), as well as a group of government badasses led by the gay guy from Be Cool. The gay guy from Be Cool is obscenely pumped up in this movie, even more pumped than he was in his last film, Faster (which is a pretty tight flick, save for the last 10 minutes or so).

I'm looking at this scary guy with his tree trunk arms and circa 1989 projection-television-sized chest and thinking to myself that this guy, this gay guy from Be Cool, he must be a really big fan of Lyle Alzado, because it looks like he's trying his absolute darndest to meet the motherfucker. He never stops sweating either; I was going to blame that on the Brazilian climate but nobody else is sweating liters like this guy, who's sweating like Ted Striker trying to land a plane, so it must be a side-effect from downing bottles of Xenadrine between camera set-ups. Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? I can, and it smells like a man going through ketosis.

At this point, the series is making it very clear to us that we are entering video game/cartoon logic territory. Not that the first few Fast/Furious joints were gritty representations of real life, but they were pretty grounded for summer fare. I mean, one of the most outlandish moments in the first film was when both Dom and the Buster race down a street, hoping to cross the train tracks before an oncoming train smashes them both. But by the fifth film, these motherfuckers drive a convertible off a cliff and then get up from the fuckin' car in mid-air and jump off from it before finally landing in a river (shades of Vin Diesel's opening stunt in XXX). In the first two films, the government agents were middle-aged guys played by Ted Levine and James Remar. In this one, the government agents are ripped and look like side characters from the Metal Gear series. In comparison to the fast-talking quip-masters that occupy this film, the side characters in the first one might as well be inarticulate extras from Gus Van Sant's Death trilogy. These aren't complaints, just observations. In other words, I'm just saying.

During all the street chases and vicious ownings, the Furious crew get the idea in their heads to pull yet an even more impossible heist and realize they're gonna need a bigger boat, and by bigger boat, I mean they need more guys on the job. Why I didn't just say that in the first place, I have no idea. At this point, the movie turns all Ocean's on us when we're intro'd to the additions to the team -- characters from previous Fast/Furious joints -- you have the two bickering brothers from the last one, Ludacris from part dos, the tall skinny chick from the last one (she and Sweet Dee from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia should team up and make a buddy action movie, called Killer Birds or something), Tyrese from part dos (I groaned when I saw him, but thankfully, the filmmakers made him not nearly as annoying in this one, so I never felt like throwing him into the path of an oncoming train like I did in 2 Fast 2 Homoerotic) and last but certainly not least, muthafuckin' Han from Tokyo Drift.

Let's talk a bit about Han; this guy -- SPOILER YOU FUCKERS -- died in Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but his character is pretty awesome and the filmmakers realize that (it's revealed here that his full name is Han Seoul-Oh), so the way they keep him in the series is by having the last joint and this joint (and probably the next joint) all take place before the events of the Tokyo joint -- and even then, you never know what they might pull to keep him in these joints. I mean, you never know. By the way, on a completely unrelated note, stick around during the end credits. Anyway, like I was saying, I have no idea how they might keep him alive.

While Han might be the coolest character in the movie, Brewster & Brazilian Bird the hottest, and Paul Walker's character the most Paul Walker-esque, it's Dominic Toretto who was my favorite. Calm down dear, listen up: I liked how his character was no longer the badass cooler-than-cool person he tried to come off as in the first film, he's softened up quite a bit. Part of that, I think, might be a result of him losing the love of his life in the last movie. In that one, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't just try to James Bond that shit and have him shacking up with a new broad before the end credits, and I was even more pleasantly surprised that he's still not considering putting himself on the market in Fast Five. He's still grieving, and as a result of that, I notice his character is a lot more, I don't know, needy or something. Maybe "appreciative" is a better word.

I mean, he's done it before in the last one, but here he's really laying it on thick with his talk about the people in his life being "family", regardless of whether they're related or not. He gives at least one heartfelt speech to his fellow Fast & Furious-ers, telling them how much they mean to him, and I think at least a couple of these guys are secretly thinking Calm Down Dude, Don't Start Crying Now and feeling all awkward and shit while politely smiling and nodding their heads before taking a celebratory swig of beer.

He was all about family in the first one too, but it was more of a You're Part Of The Circle Or You're Not and it's really hard to get in his circle (uh, that didn't come out right) but in this one, I think he's very open to anyone willing to hang with the fuckin' guy. I bet you that shit extends beyond the screen; it's like Hey guys, I make these Fast/Furious movies for you, the ones who were always down with the series but weren't down with The Chronicles of Riddick or Find Me Guilty or Babylon A.D. for some reason, and rather than hate on you, I'm gonna give you what you want. It's like he knows where he's wanted, and he's sure as fuck appreciating the shit out of it nowadays. If you're a Fast & Furious fan, then shit man, you're in the family, brother. Well, that and there's also the mass amount of fame & cash he gets for doing these flicks.

That part earlier where I referred to the second (and worst) of the series as 2 Fast 2 Homoerotic, that reminded me of a couple scenes in this one. There aren't nearly as any (if any) of those moments, although the Vince character does seem like a jilted chick every once in a while. I mean, in the first one, he didn't come off that way because he was all about wanting to score with Brewster's character -- but once the fuckin' Buster came into their lives, his chances pretty much went down to zero.

But in Fast Five, Vince has a woman and a kid, and Brewster's with the Buster now, but I guess it's in Vince's nature to be territorial about *something*, and in this movie that Something is his schoolyard chum Dominic. Vince is still wary about the Buster, trying to tell Dominic to be careful with him, but Dom's like Whatever and Vince gets all butt-hurt about it, whining about how "You never listen to me" and I'm half-expecting him to go on about how he doesn't feel appreciated for all the hard work he does cleaning the house and making dinner.

Someone somewhere mentioned how this series is changing, that it used to be about racing but it's now about heists, which is a weird thing to say because the other movies (at least the first 2) involved heists in one way or another. Maybe what he or she meant about this movie concentrating on heists is that there are a lot more staples of the heist genre in this movie, compared to the previous flicks; you have the sequence where each member of the team is introduced, you have scenes devoted to each member performing their part of the heist using his or her specialty, you have the montage where they kept doing practice runs on specific parts of the job, and most importantly, you have one of those awesome scenes where the entire heist crew huddles up around a table, looking at blueprints of the place they're going to hit, and going over the requirements needed to pull off the job. I fuckin' love that shit and I fuckin' love heist movies and Fast Five is a damn good heist movie. I don't know if Paramount was planning on doing this, but if they were, I'd suggest they shouldn't even bother making an Italian Job 2, because Universal and this movie just assed them the fuck out with Fast Fuckin' Five.

I always liked the Fast/Furious series and thought they were fun time-killers, but I also kinda understood that they weren't really respected, at least not in comparison to genuinely awesome summer action movies. These third-tier summer extravaganzas couldn't hang out with the big boys like Die Hard or The Dark Knight, they had to settle for the company of the Pirates of the Caribbean series (well, the last two, anyway) or even lower, lamer excuses for A Fun Time At The Movies like the Transformers movies. When I rambled about Fast Ampersand Furious, I admitted that my enjoyment of that movie may have come more from the nostalgia of digging the first one, but I'm happy to write that the reason I really dug Fast Five is because it's a fucking awesome summer action flick (summer came early, didn't you know?). I'm not sure if I'd put it up there with the A-level summer flicks, because I'd have to see it again and frankly, I need a couple years at least before I even consider qualifying that shit, but I'll sure as hell put it in the B+ section.

The action is top-fucking-notch and I can say that with confidence because at least twice I wanted to jump the fuck out of my seat and fucking applaud the movie for having the ability to make me smile like a dumbass as a result from having just watched something Fucking Awesome happen. It's not just the car chases and crashes, there's also a nice amount of violent shootouts that push the PG-13 rating as far as possible; there's a foot chase through the favela that ends with what felt like a higher body count than the past 4 films put together (it seems like each Fast/Furious film gets harder & darker with each installment). Then later in the film, there's also a pretty brutal fight scene that in the real world would end with one of them in the hospital and the other in the morgue -- that's the Chicago way! -- but in this movie, it only results in an eventual mutual respect for each other's strengths. Only in the movies, baby. Sure, you can be a grouch and be all like That's Bullshit And This Movie Is Bullshit, and if that's the case, I hope one day you'll realize it's OK to enjoy awesome stuff and you won't be mocked by your fellow hipsters for doing so.

I don't know how many cars they destroyed in this fucking movie, but I'm sure the family members of all the stuntmen who surely died performing the stunts will be proud of the film. Also, there was a trailer for the Cars sequel before the movie and that made me think that the families of the cars that were destroyed in this movie would also be just as understanding/forgiving of the film. By the way, 3 of the movie trailers preceding our feature presentation featured shit jokes, and one of them (some Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds comedy) actually featured 3 shit-related moments in its 3-minute running time. If that wasn't all, there was also a rather vivid exploding toilet scene in Fast Five.

What the fuck, people? Were we always a society of fecal lovers? And yet, these same people who laughed at a baby rocketing shit onto Bateman's face, these same people who guffawed at Leslie Mann dropping crazy deuces on the toilet while lamenting her choice of Thai food, these people who howled at Bateman freaking out when Mann got in bed with him and pointed her recently-wiped ass towards him -- these same people would freak out if they saw Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, then they would go home and order Jackass 3 on pay-per-view, gobbling all the bathroom humor like so much chocolate pudding.

Complaints? I have a few -- actually, I only have one, really: I wish they didn't feel the need to Tony Scott the shit out of the subtitles, but what can you do, it's the hip/young thing to do, I guess. I also would've loved to see some ragdoll bodies fly out of the fuckin' cars, and blood, oh yes, precious beautiful blood would've been welcome amongst all the insanity, but again, this is a PG-13 joint and I can always create an Unrated Director's Cut in the Blu-ray player of my imagination. Nudity would've been welcome too, but again, there's always my imaginary Blu-ray.

In short, if you like fast cars, two-fisted action, one-fisted gunplay, sweaty steroid cases, vehicular smashups, and plenty of tits & ass in bikinis and various other tight skimpy outfits, then you're most likely the writer of these ramblings and you should already be planning to see this shit a second time. But if you're not me, and you don't like the above-mentioned qualities, but you *do* like seeing a closeted action star acting less closeted than he did in recent movies, then yeah, you should see this shit right the fuck now.