I am not generally into over-hyped testosterone driven films such as the Fast and Furious franchise. I know actors who have more acting ability in their little finger than Vin Diesel (soon to change his name to Vin Hybrid) and Dwayne Rock Johnson. The scenario of fast cars, fast women, fast action, fast camera cuts, large biceps, large other body parts and so on, being splashed continually across the screen is all too familiar and the formula is tired, beyond tired.
So why exactly did I go to see this adrenaline rush of a two hour and ten minute film? Clearly not so I can recommend it to Christian families as a fun afternoon at the flicks. No, I went to see the movie to see if I could understand why this is worldwide, and by far, the number one movie. What psychological forces are at play, that makes this movie attractive? Why are reviewers falling all over themselves calling this the best of the five in this series.
Obviously this is a hot summer popcorn movie, don’t look for it to be mentioned at Oscar time. At least we did not have to endure a bunch of jumped up CG scenes mixed in with ‘live action’. But even so, the live action was so jumped up, that you are saying to yourself, no one could have survived that beating, that car chase, that barrage of bullets, etc. Even Iron Man would have gotten tired in this breakneck film.
What makes this movie appealing are several factors: 1) hot cars (the movie is in part about car jacking). I hardly need to regale you with tales about America’s love affair with extremely hot and souped up cars; 2) an exotic location, in this case Rio (who knew that there was a tiny metal crown on top of the head of the concrete Christ that hovers over Rio). In this respect the movie has the sort of appeal that James Bond films do, except in fact that what you see of Rio is the slums and the blue collar parts of town, and the drug dealers. Apart from one enjoyable scene at the beach, this movie is all cloak and dagger in the bad parts of Rio; 3) the band of brothers factor. This movie works because like in the Oceans movies there are a team of colorful and interesting people out to rob the richest drug dealer in Rio of all his ill gotten gains. You have no sympathy for Mr. Reyes the drug lord whatsoever. And this is where of course things get confusing, because a DEA team (who are supposed to be the good guys) are after Vin Diesel and the Dieselettes, as he broke out of incarceration and had done some bad things. So now we have a three way tag team cage match in Rio, and sometimes its hard to tell the players without the program; 4) the ‘there is honor and family among thieves like the Sopranos’ factor. The movie works hard to play up the ‘virtues’ and family values of ‘Domenic’ (Vin), and at the end you have some sympathy for some of these thieves, although you don’t feel too sorry for them considering the heist. Movies who mix up the good guys and the bad guys the Robin Hoods and the boys in the hood, seem to have a good deal of appeal in these ethically mixed up times; 5) the cast of the ‘Band of Brothers’ is interesting, and actually Ludacris is the best of the support cast as the safe cracker dude; 6) and of course there is lots of loud hip hop and rap music, bound to attract a lot of the younger crowd, music which would have driven my mother right out of the theater.
If you can suspend your disbelief enough times, and go along for the ride, this movie takes us along a plot line even your five year old could follow, so unlike a thriller like Inception, if you are brain dead at the end of the semester, this may be the movie for you! I have seen many better summer fun films, including films with better car chases (start with the classic in the French Connection, or say one of Steve McQueen’s classic chases) but it is safe to say this will not be the worst of the summer movies. If you don’t require catchy dialogue and characters with real depth and plot twists but just want some entertainment, well….. be my guest, but consider yourself warned—– there is far too much testosterone in almost every scene in this film, in fact it oozes off the screen. ‘Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do.’