Skip to main content

Winner gets… me.


The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
(2006)

(SPOILERS) Alternatively known as The Fast and the Furious Six, if you follow the chronology (on account of a key character here dying and then showing up in subsequent F&F masterpieces. Which means I ended up catching this in very nearly the correct order (I have yet to see the actual the officially monikered Fast & Furious 6. This is the only one in the series that doesn’t feature either Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (well, almost the latter; he is wooed for a cameo, prior to his triumphant return in Fast and Furious (or, Fast Three, if you will). There are those who argue this is the underappreciated peak of the disposable franchise, but that’s a bit of a leap; it’s as laden down as ever with clunky plotting, spinning wheels, macho stand-offs and raptastic montages featuring scantily clad girlies ((the latter abjectly failing to disguise the auto- and homoerotica dripping from every shiny hood and protracted bout of male bonding).


This time out, Lucas Black’s (who first found fame as a child actor, starring in the one-season wonder American Gothic) Sean is so much darned trouble to his poor mum, getting up to all sorts of mischief with his racing delinquency, that she packs him off to Tokyo to live with his Naval father (Brian Goodman). He quickly falls in with Han (Sung Kang), who has a business relationship with the nephew of a Yakuza kingpin D.K. (Brian Tee). He even finds a bit of time to romance D.K.’s girl (big mistake!) Neela (Natalie Kelly) when he’s not bromancing.


Arguably all this auto-fetishism is more age-appropriate to Black’s teenager than Vin’s 40 year old, but it makes the high school meets organised crime plotline seem more ludicrously adrenalised than any other installment in the series. This culminates in Black’s young punk standing up to uncle Shin’ichi Chiba, effortlessly persuading him to permit a race with his nephew to settle matters. I mean, as if any self-respecting gangland boss wouldn’t take him out the back and have a rusty screwdriver lodged in his ear. These are fantasy wish-fulfilment flicks, of course, and director Justin Lin knows that very well; he would go on to direct three ever-more hyperbolic sequels. But the other problem here might be that Black is too good an actor for all this nonsense. His homespun southern drawl suggests a sincerity that doesn’t really fit with all this motorised silliness.


There’s subtext spinning off every fender in this one, though. Sean is so all-American it’s not true, and he arrives in Japan ready to teach the nation a thing or two about honour; it’s just like WWII all over again! Or like Tom Cruise in Last Samurai; a land known for its codes discovers that the foreigner has even stronger core values! If anyone can show the Yakuza how things really are, it’s a teenager from the Land of the Free. With a little help from his dad (US military might goes with its citizens wherever they are in the world).


Miraculously, when Sean stands up to Uncle Yakuza, he can suddenly speak fluent Japanese! It’s amazing! The movie is careful not to give Sean a Japanese best friend, girlfriend, or mentor (they’re all expats); all the better to accentuate those national divisions! It even throws in a bit of Star Wars while it’s at it; Lucas (Luke Skywalker), sounding all the world like a farm boy, must battle the “evil empire”, and is aided in this by an Obi-Wan who teaches him how to use the force (“the drift”) before Kenobi exits stage left (yet manages to live on through a number of sequels). The only difference is old Ben didn’t pull 360s around ladies’ cars in order to convince his young padewan that he really is heterosexual, really.


Han was best pals with Vin’s Dom you see. When Sean and Dom meet, they discuss their mutual pal. It’s a conversation purportedly about models of automobile, but I think it’s quite clear what’s going on.

Sean: I didn’t know he was into American muscle.
Dom: He was when he was rolling with me.


Sean will be rolling with Dom in Fast & Furious 7. My testosterone nozzle is full to burstin’ in anticipation.

** 

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

I am so sick of Scotland!

Outlaw/King (2018)
(SPOILERS) Proof that it isn't enough just to want to make a historical epic, you have to have some level of vision for it as well. Say what you like about Mel's Braveheart – and it isn't a very good film – it's got sensibility in spades. He knew what he was setting out to achieve, and the audience duly responded. What does David Mackenzie want from Outlaw/King (it's shown with a forward slash on the titles, so I'm going with it)? Ostensibly, and unsurprisingly, to restore the stature of Robert the Bruce after it was rather tarnished by Braveheart, but he has singularly failed to do so. More than that, it isn’t an "idea", something you can recognise or get behind even if you don’t care about the guy. You’ll never forget Mel's Wallace, for better or worse, but the most singular aspect of Chris Pine's Bruce hasn’t been his rousing speeches or heroic valour. No, it's been his kingly winky.

If this is not a place for a priest, Miles, then this is exactly where the Lord wants me.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
(SPOILERS) Sometimes a movie comes along where you instantly know you’re safe in the hands of a master of the craft, someone who knows exactly the story they want to tell and precisely how to achieve it. All you have to do is sit back and exult in the joyful dexterity on display. Bad Times at the El Royale is such a movie, and Drew Goddard has outdone himself. From the first scene, set ten years prior to the main action, he has constructed a dizzyingly deft piece of work, stuffed with indelible characters portrayed by perfectly chosen performers, delirious twists and game-changing flashbacks, the package sealed by an accompanying frequently diegetic soundtrack, playing in as it does to the essential plot beats of the whole. If there's a better movie this year, it will be a pretty damn good one.

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

It was one of the most desolate looking places in the world.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old, broadcast by the BBC on the centenary of Armistice Day, is "sold" on the attraction and curiosity value of restored, colourised and frame rate-enhanced footage. On that level, this World War I documentary, utilising a misquote from Laurence Binyon's poem for its title, is frequently an eye-opener, transforming the stuttering, blurry visuals that have hitherto informed subsequent generations' relationship with the War. However, that's only half the story; the other is the use of archive interviews with veterans to provide a narrative, exerting an effect often more impacting for what isn't said than for what is.

What about the panties?

Sliver (1993)
(SPOILERS) It must have seemed like a no-brainer. Sharon Stone, fresh from flashing her way to one of the biggest hits of 1992, starring in a movie nourished with a screenplay from the writer of one of the biggest hits of 1992. That Sliver is one Stone’s better performing movies says more about how no one took her to their bosom rather than her ability to appeal outside of working with Paul Verhoeven. Attempting to replicate the erotic lure of Basic Instinct, but without the Dutch director’s shameless revelry and unrepentant glee (and divested of Michael Douglas’ sweaters), it flounders, a stupid movie with vague pretensions to depth made even more stupid by reshoots that changed the killer’s identity and exposed the cluelessness of the studio behind it.

Philip Noyce isn’t a stupid filmmaker, of course. He’s a more-than-competent journeyman when it comes to Hollywood blockbuster fare (Clear and Present Danger, Salt) also adept at “smart” smaller pictures (Rabbit Proof Fence

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.