Both January and February are awful. Of course January is terrible. January is darkness at 3pm and eating vegan and jogging in -4c and trying to be your best self every day, day after day. But you forgot about February, didn’t you? About trying to keep all of that up for one more month to convince yourself that all of this wasn’t a blip on the radar, but a bold new direction — like Picasso’s blue period, say. Or Apple making iPhones as big as surfboards. The only possible life hack I can offer you at this trying time is to follow The Rock on Instagram.
One cool thing about following The Rock is the realisation that he leads your January/February life all year round. It’s a hit of JOMO to realise that thank god you’re not an action movie star who has to take the red eye to Shanghai and has to head straight to the gym on arrival. When at the gym, sleepless, you won’t have to deliver an impassioned monologue about your latest movie with your shirt off. Following The Rock may lead you to conclude that it is possible for a person to survive minus sleep, but would you want to? Suddenly, your life is looking like a snack, like one of those bowls of fruit burnished gold in a Renaissance painting. Thank god that your livelihood doesn’t depend on how toned your torso is.
But the best thing about following The Rock on Instagram is the Fast and Furious updates. The Rock rescued everybody’s January by announcing at the tail end of that difficult month that it was the last day of shooting tenuous spin-off Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Which means it’s coming soon, presumably? I’m overexcited, because Idris Elba, the only man deemed good enough to play Beyonce’s husband in Obsessed, is playing the criminal mastermind, Brixton (yeah, I don’t know either — Idris was born in Hackney). Idris is already getting suitably goofy about promoting this movie, which is fun to watch. But I’m doubly overexcited because what better excuse for a massive Fast & Furious rewatch?
After all, this is one of the world’s most successful franchises. It has starred everyone from Michelle Rodriguez to Ja Rule to Charlize Theron to Helen Mirren to an early cameo from Gal freaking Gadot! So how can you play catch up before the next installment drops?
Purists might tell you that the only way to watch an action movie is in cinemas, where the surround sound and larger screen will heighten the impact of the stunts. This is probably true for most shoot-em-ups, but not Vin Diesel’s baby. Honestly, the only feasible way to watch these films is with another person, who will need to be sympathetic to the cause. You will need them to bring a spare laptop.
You will need to sit on your bed, with the two laptops placed next to each other. Laptop #1 will be used to watch the movie. Laptop #2 will be used to Wikipedia the plot. This is because the series favours a style of storytelling which can only be termed “entirely fucking indecipherable”. One reason for this is the speed of the shots — in F&F7, the average shot time feels like it’s around two-three seconds long, which can sometimes make you feel like you’re watching an art film dressed up as an action blockbuster.
But let’s not fudge facts: these films are mostly confusing thanks to the scripts. The dialogue oftens feels as if it’s been written by bots with only a cursory understanding of how human interaction functions. The scripts often use established turns-of-phrases in entirely the wrong context. “With all due respect,” says an anonymous government boss to Vin Diesel in Fast 7, “I love the work you and your team do.” Lines are often heavy on symbolism, light on meaning. In Fast 6, Brian advises “If you want the big fish, you’ve gotta be willing to put on the big boy panties and sail out to the deep end.” In 5, the Rock will advocate going to find Dom because “You’ve got to catch wolves to get wolves.”
So why watch at all? Namely, because these films are an overdose of fun. They’re so much fun that you might judge yourself a little for succumbing to all of it — the script, the half-a-second-shots, the obligatory close-ups on some girl’s thong-clad bottom in every crowd scene — with such gusto. And yet, you can’t and won’t resist. Like Pringles, once you pop, that’s it. Wave goodbye to your loved ones. Tell your flatmates you won’t be coming up for air for the next two days.
There are, of course, plenty of serious and valid reasons to watch the Fast & Furious series. Writers like Zeba Blay and Stephanie Merry have celebrated the franchise being ahead of the curve in terms of its predominantly non-white cast and directors. Back in the early noughts, when few shits were given about representation, the staggering success of a largely non-white cast made an important argument for black and latinx-led films.
vin_diesel_saying_family.gif— Qubiste (@Qubiste) October 16, 2018
Arguably, this is reflected in the franchise’s — or rather Vin Diesel’s character Dom’s — preoccupation with the idea of family. That’s family not as your relatives by blood, but family as your chosen people, your nearest and dearest friends. According to Dom, family comes first — above all other considerations. This obviously has resonance if you’re an immigrant, living at a distance from your blood-relatives.
All of this is important and great. But this is not why I’m advocating you get hooked on these campy, wonderful movies. There comes a time in every person’s life, when they have watched Luca Guadagnino’s latest and greatest, dived into Sean Baker’s newest offering, hit up their local art-house cinema for something thoughtful...and yet they return home feeling empty, tossing and turning on the pillow. Why? Because they’ve eaten oysters when, the whole time, they just wanted to sink their teeth into a juicy cheeseburger.
Fast and Furious is an eight(almost nine)-cheeseburger franchise. It is not necessarily good for you. It may increase your blood pressure substantially. But when you’re hungry for a plate full of clunky dialogue, Paul Walker’s ocean-blue eyes and one insane action stunt after the next, nothing else will do. Please, I beg of you, do not choose tonight to be the night you stream some German art house cinema from the ‘20s. Tonight, embrace high action camp. Embrace the film’s inherent eroticism (Per The Cut: ““It’s because [the bald actors] look like penises,” offered a friend. She continued, “Everything in that movie is a penis.””). Embrace the joy, the beauty, the kitsch of The Fast and the Furious. If it’s good enough for The Rock, it’s definitely good enough for you.
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