The Great Super Bowl Blackout of 2013 is a distant memory, except for fans of the Baltimore Ravens and/or Beyonce’s publicist. Other than the bowl itself, there were commercials about how much Paul Harvey loves white, Christian farmers and how much a man loves his Clydesdales and how much old douchebags are no different from young douchebags when they go to Taco Bell.
And then, there was THE commercial. The commercial that seemed to say, “Dear America, this is you. Love, Justin Lin.” The commercial that is etched into the collective psyche of the universe. A commercial full of the things we wanted so desperately to see: tanks, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the guttural snarling of Sir Vincent of Diesel, and a group of racing cars bringing down a military plane, then a car ejaculating out of said downed military plane. It was a commercial so good, it led to a chain of events that ended up with a distracted butcher who looked the other way as a bunch of horses were fed into a meat grinder (*allegedly*).
But as I watched that commercial, my mind just kept saying: this is too on-the-nose. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so blah about the impending tour de force (and I do mean FORCE) that is Fast and Furious 6. And then I figured it out. It’s because no matter how hard they try, the pinnacle of Fast and Furious has already been achieved. And it happened in Tokyo, while drifting.
I didn’t realize this until I saw Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift on Spike TV the other day. By the way, Tokyo Drift has become to Spike TV what A Few Good Men has become to TNT or what Shawshank Redemption has become to AMC: the greatest time-filler and the sort of programming that stops you from channel surfing, keeping you glued to the television until at least two commercial breaks have passed. More importantly, Tokyo Drift is the unadulterated essence of what Spike TV stands for (and unsurprisingly the unadulterated essence of what the Fast and Furious franchise stands for): simple entertainment that is simultaneously awful and transcendent.
This may not be convincing to some of you, but one needs to go no farther than the IMDB goofs page for FF:TD to understand what it inspires in people (and how many times they must have seen it). Since you’re not going to read all of them, dear reader, here is a taste (SPOILERS ABOUND):
When Sean and Han escape Han's shop, they drift while trying to evade D.K. and his crew. They would have much better chance if they drove in a clean line, instead of drifting, which makes the car much slower.
During the first race between the Monte Carlo and Viper, the starter pulls off her bra and throws it in the air. It lands about 10 feet in front of the two cars. Both drivers shift gears, accelerate for a few seconds, then drive past the bra, which is now 100 to 200 feet from where it landed.
What is it about this movie that can possibly inspire this type of behavior in people? I’m glad you asked. Here are the top 10 reasons (of 200000)
1. The main character, Sean ‘Bama Boy’ Boswell, is the least charismatic character in cinema. Let’s put it this way: since FF:TD, Lucas Black, the actor who played Bama Boy, has not been featured in a movie. That’s 7 years of not being in a movie. Maybe I’m giving him a hard time, but he’s such a bad actor that he makes Paul Walker look like Philip Seymour Hoffmann. He’s such a bad actor that they didn’t ask him to be in Fast Five. The only way he would be considered a great actor is if he wasn’t a yokel from Alabama. But he is.
And that’s a good thing. By being blander than any other character, he is an incredible Larry Sue. It is not Tokyo Drift, starring Lucas Black. It’s Tokyo Drift starring us. Any one of us in his ridiculous situation would feel the same way. Act differently, but feel the same way. Also, at the end of the movie, he’s the best drifter there is. Not one of these guys who’s been doing it for years and years, waiting to beat the DK (which stands for Drift King, by the way) to be the DK. Not one of these guys who knows more about drifting than Bama Boy ever could. Like all great Americans, he shows up for about 6 months and then is the best around. Just like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, he proves that white Americans are the best at everything; they just don’t feel like trying all the time.
2. Unlike the other Fast and Furious movies, there is no pretense about crime or any such nonsense.
It’s just about drifting. Pure and simple. Sure, this movie was probably just a cash-in on the ‘drift craze’ that was hitting the US at the time. In that way, it’s an anthropological treasure trove, much like Step Up: Revolution will tell us everything we need to know about how Occupy Wall Street became corrupted from the inside. They didn’t need to add in FBI informants or illegal shipments of auto parts (though there was a bit about illegal auto parts in there at the end). All they needed was a man, a car, and 1000 tires to destroy while drifting. And drifting, as we all know, is an incredibly Japanese thing to do. Yep, right up there with square watermelons and sand raking. And FF:TD will always remind us of that in the most cliché and borderline racist dialogue about being one with the drift or something. But guess what? It works. I totally understand why drifting is great and only the Japanese (and one American) can do it.
There’s some stuff about the Yakuza in the end there, but it’s not a driving (GET IT?) plot point in the movie.
3. Han. Han is the R. Kelly of the Fast and Furious franchise. If you don’t understand why Han is the best character in this franchise, I have only one thing to say to you: 0010110101110110101111010101. You goddamn robot, you.
4. Han. Seriously, this guy is so good. He picks up girls by drifting around them! It is, quite literally, car porn. I assume the low engine noise gave these women an old fashioned rumblegasm. Full disclosure: me too.
5. You guys, Sonny Chiba is in this movie. Sonny Chiba, aka Hattori Hanzo, aka Zatoichi, etc. He is so cool, his last name is a nickname for weed. But if you don’t know who he is (and a pox on your family if that’s the case), here’s a SAMPLE (courtesy of the King of Youtube):
And the thing is, he’s only in the movie for about 5 minutes. It’s like if you made a movie about fat white guys in kimonos and Steven Seagal was only in it for 5 minutes. This is insane! And, naturally, Chiba is a consummate professional and kills it. He plays a Yakuza boss who is involved in auto parts smuggling (as all bad guys in Fast and Furious movies are), who strangely really cares about his nephew, the current DK. Totally honorable dude, too. To reiterate, FF:TD is so stacked with talent that Sonny Chiba doesn’t need to do any heavy lifting for this movie.
6. 90’s bonanza. Two people are in this movie that I didn’t think I’d see again: Bow Wow and Zachery Ty Bryan. ZTB hasn’t been the same since Home Improvement, but a quick look at his IMDB page shows that other than Home Improvement, FF:TD is his best credit. This is surprising, since he plays the meathead jock perfectly. And there’s a chase through an undeveloped gated community that’s as stupid as it is brilliant, where his best acting comes through making the same face every time. Oh, also, Kid Rock’s ‘Bawitdaba’ plays. Who am I kidding, just watch it. Every second is incredible.
My only guess is that he’s got a Jean-Claude van Damme style cocaine problem that has kicked him out of Hollywood. He’s quickly becoming our generation’s Billy Zane. Which is a travesty upon all travesties. [Free movie idea: Billy Zane and Zachery Ty Bryan as con men in rural Texas running from the bad guy, played by Val Kilmer, replete with ‘Tombstone’ accent. I should make this happen]
As for Bow Wow, he’s great as the best friend in FF:TD (he plays the black Japanese hustler role to a T). He’s got a sweet Hulk ride...before The Hulk was big. Now, that car probably costs a billion Yen. Yet, in his acting/rapping career he did the classic mistake of dropping ‘Li’l’ from his name. You know who didn’t do that, Bow Wow? Li’l Wayne. Now that guy is making stacks on stacks on stacks (against the will of God, but still). And in the acting world, Bow Wow he’s going up against the Cerberus that is the Omarion-Jaden Smith-TI combo. FF:TD will serve as Bow Wow’s epitaph, I imagine. Hope you invested that ‘Like Mike’/Hulkwagon money well, bro. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.
7. The theme song of the movie is by something called ‘Teriyaki Boyz’, which, as far as I know, is not a racist thing. Bad Japanese rap, it turns out, is the perfect metaphor for this movie.
8. The bad guy’s henchmen are just perfect. On the scale of competent to stormtroopers, they’re at ‘Russian Army in Bond Movies’ level.
9. The final fight scene is filmed using clamshell phones. Soon after this movie came out, the iPhone came out. Did FF:TD cause the social revolution and foretell the rise of smartphones? Did it transform our thinking from an old 20th idea of what phones and cars could do? Is it responsible for some of the greatest achievements in the last 6 years? I say sure, why not?
10. [SPOILER ALERT] Vin Diesel cameo. You mean to tell me I can get Vin Diesel without Paul Walker? Oh, hallelujah! And he'll make veiled homosexual threats? This is just fantastic!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll see Fast and Furious 6. I’ll see it opening weekend. But some people are going to go to the movie theater hoping that it’s the best one yet. You may be convinced. But you are wrong. Dead wrong. As dead as Michelle Rodriguez in the rest of the Fast and Furious franchise.