It’s nothing short of telling that a cliché storyline pitting Japanese rice rockets against American pig iron, sprinkled liberally with cute girls and junior high romance/bromance, festooned with blurry legality and “mi familia” morality, and wrapped up in a bundle of one-liners that will make Clint Eastwood roll over in his grave whenever he finally croaks,i is now nearly a decade-and-a-half old and on its 6th sequel, making this the 7th installment in The Fast & The Furious series. Say hello (again) to Paul Walker and Vin Diesel for Furious Seven.ii Yes, Hollywood is really and truly out of ideas and, well, running on fumes.
Set across Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan,iii London, some generic US shithole, and a few “secret USG bases,” the stunts and chase scenes that are the vital essence of the genre were every bit as unbelievable as they had to be for a series trying to out-do itself for the sixth consecutive time. The absurdity of this one-upmanship, manifest as it is in ever-more-spectacular and death-defying stunts, is perhaps most detrimental to the storyline in the superhuman invincibility of the main characters.iv
No matter how many times their cars are shot at, the “armour-piercing bullets” never burst through their car’s run-of-the-mill shells and hit them in the neck or leg or whatever. No matter how many times a grenade goes off 20′ away from their heads, they walk away from the blast. Honestly, Marvel’s superhero’s are more tattered, bloodied, and beat-up after a fight scene, while this ragtag team of brodudes doesn’t even show a scratch after being smashed through yet another plate glass table/wall/window. It’s almost lulzy.
But what’s really lulzy for the anthropologist is that the movie is a shining example of the consequences of becoming co-opted by the state, both real and imagined. In the film, we’re given a former outlawv and a dirty copvi who’ve demonstrated themselves to be so successful at taking down still “badder” targets that they’re now handed the keys to the kingdom by the King himself, a Men In Black-esque Mr. Nobody played by Kurt Russell. So we now have Dominic Toretto, current leader of an organised criminal network, along with Brian O’Connor, the would-be undercover agent who fell in love with his mark while on the take, going legit like Amazon and becoming government assets.
This is really no different than bankers being co-opted by the state and is entirely a function of thermodynamics. Like the bankers, once the protagonists realised that, given the same effort, the kitty was larger when they cooperated, no matter the downstream effects because hey, who considers those, they fell in line. So surprise, surprise, O’Connor and Toretto now find themselves in the employ of the deepest pockets in town, those who print the dough.
So here they are, now kidnapping people and squeezing secrets of out them – not unlike the KYC/AML derpage, something the audience of the 2001 series premiere would’ve balked at – and yet there’s not a hint, not even a mere suggestion of inner turmoil created by the transition from independent individual to tentacle of the state. The transition is as buttery smooth as Castrol Syntec and there’s nary a reflective question pondered, probably just as it was for USGavin.vii
On the imagined level, this film portrays what every shoe-signing derp dreams will happen to him after he cooperates : he’ll still be able to do things “his way,” he’ll be surrounded by hot women who want his balls in their mouths and hotter cars with which to whisk them off into the evening, he’ll be flown all over the world on the taxpayer’s dime to party with the world’s upper crust in exceptionally ostentatious environs, and on and on, ad nauseum. This is, of course, most certainly not how it works. Working for the state not only makes you a drone in the world’s most megalithic corporation, it deprives you of the exact freedom you were promised.
Want to dream a dream about the glory that accompanies friends of the state ? Watch this movie. Want to wake the fuck up instead ? Walk by a Starbucks and check out the “supersecret agents” with earpieces in and their unmarked Suburbans parked out front… drinking frappuccinos.
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- Not that I’m hoping that this is anytime soon. [↩]
- Directed by James Wan, Produced by Vin Diesel(!) and Michael Fottrell, 2015. James Wan is perhaps best known for directing the original Saw movie, the first in the seven-film Saw franchise. See the pattern here ? [↩]
- Though the “Caucasus Mountains” backdrop was actually the Monarch Pass in Colorado, but that’s somehow not as exotic of a locale. This scene also featured a Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane from which five “good guy” cars were dropped out the back from 12,000 feet in an effort to intercept the “bad guys” who’d kidnapped annoyingly “woman in tech-ish” and “emancipated” hacker Ramsey, played by Nathalie Emmanuel, whom you might recognise as Missandei from Game of Thrones. I didn’t know who the fuck she was other than derpy eye candy as “hacker.” [↩]
- The main characters being Brian O’Connor, played by the now-deceased Paul Walker, Dominic Toretto, played by the insufferable Vin Diesel, and some other folks… and new for this edition : action movie “stars” Jason Statham, playing evil British super spy cum rogue ghost Decker Shaw, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, playing US Diplomatic Security Service super-soldier Hobbs. [↩]
- In earlier episodes of the franchise, Toretto is a true robber baron, stealing electronics, heroin, you name it. [↩]
- Yes, O’Connor takes money from criminals for his personal use and kills the same “baddies” without a thought to due process. What could be dirtier ? “Oh but his blue eyes are so dreamy and he’s really just a well-meaning family man.” Shut up, look, and listen : he’s filthier than a pig in mud and not half as kosher. If kashrut were amenable to fractions… [↩]
- From the script level, this ignorance can be rationalised by saying that the characters are literally too stupid to reflect upon their own personal developments. This is well supported by Toretto’s epicly daft one-liner after he was asked by Sean Boswell “If you get the guy who did this to Han, what are you gonna do?”, to which Toretto responds “Words haven’t been invented.” Though it seems altogether more probable that methods of education haven’t yet been invented that are capable of teaching such absolute meatheads how to read, I suppose not every man seeks knowledge :
THE DEVIL. What is the use of knowing?
DON JUAN. Why, to be able to choose the line of greatest advantage instead of yielding in the direction of the least resistance. Does a ship sail to its destination no better than a log drifts nowhither? The philosopher is Nature’s pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer.