Vin Diesel is smarter than me. And I know you don’t want to hear this, but he’s probably smarter than you too. My first argument for this almost implausibly strange opening is that Vin Diesel understands the fetishistic nature of automobiles (I suppose the Shakespearean note of “what’s in a name?” has an answer here).
This understanding of what people love about the brrm brrm machine is completely lost on me. The best thing about my first car was it had a tape player. The best thing about my second car is it has a CD player. Yet with an opening US box office take of $71 million behind it, Vin and co. have tapped into the market of ‘gearheads’ in a way not seen before.
US Cinemagoers can’t be going to see this film en-masse because of the story because, well, Americans aren’t that smart. Even with a film degree and an impending Masters (ooh you’re so impressed aren’t you dear readers?) I had absolutely no idea what was going on for the 95-minute duration of this film.
Okay I could follow the simple structure of ‘Big Set Piece’ (as seen in trailers), followed by ‘Soapy Bit’ followed by obscure reference to previous ‘Furious’ incarnations, followed by ‘Big Set Piece’ (as seen in trailers), followed by ‘Soapy Bit’…Lather, Rinse, Repeat. What I couldn’t get my, admittedly tiny, brain around was what these ‘Soapy Bits’ were.
Most reviewers might regard these segments as plot. But a plot is something you can follow. Having not seen any other ‘The Fast And The Furious’ movies (I possibly saw the original during, what I now refer to as, my ‘Class C days’) I felt as if I’d stumbled onto Albert Square years after leaving Walford unaware just what the fuck was going on.
As far as I can make out the ‘plot’ is as follows. ‘Bald, Gravel Gargling Man’ (Vin Diesel) is upset at the death of ‘that girl from ‘Lost’ who got caught drunk driving’ (Michelle Rodriguez) so he goes to America to seek revenge and see his sister, whose only memorable feature is she has lips a bit like Meg Ryan post-surgery (Jordana Brewster).
Along pops a depressingly Aryan fellow who pulls faces like someone is trying to set a world record for the amount of Kit Kat Chunkies he can fit into his anus (Paul Walker). ‘Kit-Kat Chunky’ boy once had a relationship with ‘Gravel’ man’s ‘Fish-lipped’ sister, and judging by the amount of awkward tension between the two, I’m guessing ‘Kit Kat’ and ‘Gravel’ also had a thing, which may or may not have ended when an expected reach around was not delivered. Or possibly one of them came too soon. I’m just guessing here.
Regardless of the accuracy, or otherwise, of my hypothetical backstory, Aryan and Baldie race around LA a bit, with the help of a ‘SatNav’ narrating the action, in order to infiltrate a gang. But this gang’s sole desire appears to be to shoot them all dead if they are the best drivers. Which seems pointless. And the boss of the gangs has some heroin that he wants to transport using these dead drivers. And this brings me to the second reason why Vin Diesel is cleverer than I. Or you.
‘Fast And Furious’ is the third film in half a decade that has left me completely baffled, by both plot mechanics and character motivation. I understood, to the best of my knowledge, ‘Donnie Darko’. I got my head around ‘Mulholland Drive’ and I’m pretty sure I figured out ‘Memento’.
Yet ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’, ‘Babylon AD’ and this latest brain-bending opus have all left me wondering if I’ve mixed my cranberry juice with methylated spirits. Vin Diesel, however, has understood each of these films. At script stage. Well done Vin.