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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Give them a reason to stay

Every two years the part of my soul that is a ride-or-die Fast and the Furious fangirl comes screaming to the surface like a sappy, excitable bear just out of hibernation. Now is that season, folks, since the latest installment--Fast & Furious 6--arrived in theaters last Friday. Did I see it opening day? Why yes I did. Was I sorry to not be able to see it with my Vin Diesel-obsessive mother-in-law? Yes, I was. Was it still awesome? Fuck yeah. See, despite not giving a shit about cars or even owning one, man do I enjoy watching hot people drive stick. I also like action movies where people hug a lot, Vin Diesel, action movies that make bank despite having only one white dude in them, Sung Kang, action movies that are set in places other than New York City and Los Angeles, Gal Gadot, and oh yeah, the Rock. And surprise!Gina Carano (whose acting is improving). And Michelle Rodriguez coming back to life, as her characters tend to do. And emotionally rewarding death scenes. And big-budget franchises with unexpected timelines, long-term plot goals, and mytharcs that boil down to "family is important; take care of yours."

(nine people on a movie poster and only one of them is white??!)

Yes, there are loud, fast machines. Yes, there are scantily-clad women...and men. Yes, there is a lack of non-heterosexual relationships. But when you stack Fast 6 against, say, other recent smash-hit action flicks, guess who comes out on top? The FatF series has, from the get-go, valued portraying people of color in a variety of relationships with one another. Women's relationships are given screen time and their characterizations are well-defined; Mia is not the same as Letty, who differs greatly from Elena, who is not a carbon copy of Gisele, who is not anything like Riley (except in terms of kickassery). You could expect a fight scene between Carano and Rodriguez to be half-dressed and hair-pulling, and you would be wrong; you could expect Elena and Letty to fight over Dom, and you would be wrong again.  Men's relationships, from the top-billed Diesel and Walker to Tyrese and the flawless Sung Kang, are also given screen time, significance, and depth, and director Justin Lin doesn't want you to forget that each film that came before--and the one that comes chronologically after--is important to character development. The attention to detail and relationships creates a film that feels like a real ensemble piece, with each character and their weight of history fitting into the puzzle. 

(my beautiful doomed OTP)

This is not to say that FatF is the be-all end-all of modern filmmaking, deserving of accolades, awards, and a place in the Criterion Collection. At its best, it's good action fun--but the action genre is a massive beast of moneymaking for Hollywood, and why should I bother with ridiculous Bay films when Lin and company have shown us that it's possible to make fun sexy blow-em-up flicks with a core of actual substance? A globally successful franchise, based around and respectful of a diverse cast, is worth talking about and supporting.

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