On Saturday night, I went to see Furious 6, the sixth entry in a movie series that started to really hit its stride with the fifth one. The Fast & Furious franchise has always been intriguing to me, because until Fast Five, it had been almost unanimously deemed by the universe to be the stupidest thing ever. I can’t claim to know the exact reason for this sudden switch, but I do know that Fast Five was great and so is Furious Six. Anyone who doesn’t think so needs to get a doctor’s note to prove that their awful lameness isn’t by their own design.
I would write a full review of this film, but so many more things went into that night that I think it wouldn’t be fair to not share them. Yes, Furious 6 is great, but the factors surrounding it made it so much more enjoyable. If you’re looking for reasons that are solely related to the movie, immediately skip to entries 5 through 9. But if you’d like to take my hand as I lead you through a wonderland, be my guest. You’re better for it.
1. CHILI CHEESE FRIES AND PULLED PORK SANDWICHES
If you have an empty stomach and go to eat a lot of theatre concession stand food (or drink a lot of tequila, something I will get to later), you’re only giving permission to your bowels to ruin any plans you or your comfortable butt may have had. That’s why it’s important to fill the tank with things that are beneficial to your ass health. Or at least things that will allow you to think about a cool movie now, and worry about the sugary failure that is to combat your anus later.
Since this is a fast and furious evening, my buddies and I chose foods that you need to devour fast and furiously. That’s why we chose French Fried, a burger/hot dog/heaven type place, where tater tots fall from the tree branches and the chefs harvest fresh Chuckwagon sandwiches from the field each morning. I immediately knew that I wanted chili cheese fries, a menu item invented by scientists who saw their fries and suddenly became extremely embarrassed by their own ineptitude. But did I want a hot dog? Or a hamburger? That’s the kind of decision that college should’ve prepared me to make, and I nearly apologized to myself and said “Both” before my eyes settled on the pulled pork sandwiches, or as the Greeks called it, “Zeus’ Sweet Mercy.”
I was never a huge fan of condiments before the last year, but considering that I was with two friends who, if they could, would get an extra medium drink cup just to pour hot sauce in, I knew that I had to make my food indecipherable from the sky. I put ketchup on the chili cheese fries and put barbecue sauce on the sandwich. About halfway through my barbecue sauce stream, the bottle became restless and the remainder of the sauce spilled out onto the meat. But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, which in this case meant adjusting my tastes so that my order of barbecue sauce with a side of pulled pork sandwich was delicious.
And it really was. I don’t understand what happened at the table that day, and my friends and I have made a pact to never talk about it again. Nevertheless, I ended up wiping the remainder of cheese and chili up with a friend’s tater tot and I leaned back in my seat, thankful that mother earth continues to bless my everyday.
2. MORTAL KOMBAT
I love Mortal Kombat. Sadly, I’d never played the new one until last night. And I’m glad I finally did. That game follows the method of storytelling that says that any time more than one person is in a room, a fight must happen. No one in Mortal Kombat is happy to see anyone else, and their very ready to constantly display their disapproval of facial expressions. At one point, I think a fight to the death between a half-man/half-robot and a Hellspawn started simply because the cyborg frowned the wrong way.
We played Mortal Kombat because we still had time to kill before the movie. But playing Mortal Kombat just wasn’t enough. I’m a twenty-four year old white male. My brain’s first reaction to everything is wondering how I can possibly turn it into a drinking game. With Mortal Kombat, the game is all too simple: You drink if you lose. And considering that Mortal Kombat will sometimes decide to kill you off because it doesn’t like how your thumbs feel on the buttons, there is no winner in this endeavor, especially if you forego buying beer and head straight to tequila instead.
3. TEQUILA AND MORTAL KOMBAT
My two friends had beer. I had tequila. Now, beer is the best choice for drinking games because very rarely does it hit you all at once. Unless you chug it quickly, beer is a relatively smooth ride. However, I wasn’t about to be a mooch, so I just equated that the tequila shot would be somewhat equal to the few sips that my friends were taking every time the game told the other player to finish them.
The only people with bad ideas who never realize at least once that it’s a bad idea are serial killers and everyone at Sam’s Club. The mental process of “Oh, fuck” hit me pretty instantly, somewhere between the first shot of tequila and the rest of my evening. I wasn’t about to be sick, but I knew that, unless I put the brakes on operation Sub Zero Cuervo, I would be the one guy in the theatre loudly laughing every time it looked like Vin Diesel wanted to ask The Rock for a quick make out session before a heist. And from how Furious 6 ended up, I would have been laughing through the whole bro-fisting movie.
4. CUSHIONED SEATS
A movie like Furious 6 deserves comfort. You need to let yourself fall into it. The same goes for the chairs that you’re going to spend the running time of the movie getting imprinted into. Luckily, the theatre we went to possessed these massive, love seat-type pieces of furniture, perfect for the transcendence I was about to experience with The Rock. Sitting down was like falling into the warm embrace of a parent whose wisdom was passed onto you through the sounds of gears shifting and who, instead of giving disapproving looks whenever I mentioned “working on a book,” simply babbled popcorn into my mouth, like I was the cinephile baby bird I knew that destiny had always meant for me to be.
5. DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON
The biggest problem with action heroes is that they reach a point where they absolutely need to make fun of themselves, before they get too old to be anything close to the word “action.” That’s where so many classic stars from the 80’s and 90’s made their mistakes and were then shoved into obscurity because of it. Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal, and many others, until they decided to become Expendables (and thus became expendable themselves, as they’d moved past simply poking fun at their own careers and had turned their entire existence into a big joke), maintained a straight face and kept throwing guys through barroom windows until people got tired of watching them do that. They weren’t likable enough to keep people intrigued through their worst efforts. They faded away because they refused to adapt to the new climate of action films, and when they finally tried to, they did it in this huge, un-measured gesture that left no one unscathed.
Now that superhero films and the show Ridiculousness have become America’s top two sources for entertainment (soon to both be replaced by Furious Bikini Robot YouTube Death Match, hosted by Chris Jericho,) one must either hope that you’re able to make tired jokes about people’s mishaps with ladders, or get a three picture deal as Iron Fist or Moon Knight. The Rock manages to dwell in some realm that very few can be a master of. That is because he has turned himself into a cartoon character, pumped up enough to define him amongst the legion of other guys who star in movies about beating up guys, and charismatic enough to set him apart, acting wise, from everyone else.
He’s also one of the few actors that has a filmography that gets better retroactively. The Rock certainly has improved somewhat as an actor, but what has improved even more is our outlook on him. In the beginning of his career, we saw him as just a wrestler-turned-actor. We’d become so jaded by the failing careers of Stallone and Van Damme that we lumped The Rock in with them, just another addition to the dying breed.
We didn’t realize that, time and time again, The Rock would prove himself to be more reliable and more fun to watch than any action hero we’d seen since the first Die Hard. We began to get used to The Rock and appreciate his style and willingness to try new things that he brought to the table, even if those things were making him look foolish. It also didn’t hurt that The Rock had an extreme dedication to his fitness, and now the only way that someone can hurt him is by getting airplanes to shoot him off the top of the Empire State Building.
The Rock provided a shot in the arm for the Fast/Furious franchise, as someone who could outmatch every other character in terms of likability and physique. It’s now hard to imagine the series without him, simply because he brings his own brand of stardom where ever he goes. The Rock doesn’t need a role to define him. The Rock is The Rock, and he rules.
6. THERE IS CONTINUITY
It wasn’t until recently that I completely watched the first four Fast/Furious films, and it didn’t really catch on to me until the sixth one that, while it’s not extremely heavy, these films do indeed have connecting plot lines. Going to see one will continue the story, rather than “This week, in a movie series about vroom vrooms and sleeveless shirts…”
7. IT’S UNABASHEDLY FUN
I don’t understand this fixation with “guilty pleasures.” People have this overwhelming mentality that it’s awful to really enjoy something unless they preface it with a statement like “Yeah, I know it’s dumb fun…” Fuck off, people who do that. It’s totally okay to dig Furious 6, because Furious 6 is made for people who will like Furious 6. It’s not trying to prove itself to be something else. It’s not a film based around turning one genre into another so that people will be satisfied that they didn’t go see Catwoman or something. It’s a loud, brash thrill ride, and people may call it “dumb,” and in that case, it’s one of the most well-made dumb movies I’ve ever seen.
8. PLANES, CARS, TANKS AND WIRES
A big problem with action films today is that there’s not really a clear objective in mind. You never really get a solid picture of where everyone is at and why they’re doing what they’re doing. And even if you do, it’s shot in a way that you can’t possibly tell what’s happening on screen anyway. The biggest complaint I had with the Transformers series is not that it had a bad story about robots. Its plot was very serviceable for a tale about All Sparks and Sentinel Prime. It’s that, when it came down to the money shots, the shots of robots finally duking it out, Michael Bay would point his camera a little to the side or sweep it through too fast. There was never a straight shot of two robots tumbling around. That’s why those movies were mediocre, not because they had poor stories, but because the thing that people came to see, the Transformers fighting Transformers, was very lacking.
Furious 6 doesn’t have that problem, and I think it’s because there are certain points of focus in most of the action scenes. Two of the chases are built around the gimmick of this almost indestructible kind of wire that can be shot into the sides of stuff to fuck up anything that might run into it. Using this provides a launching point for successful sequences because audiences can start to piece things together, visually, even when stuff isn’t directly in front of them. They know that “Okay, that car is attached to the plane with that wire, and that character is in that car, so that character is over there.” It, pun so very intended, links things. It doesn’t hurt that everything is shot in a way so that, when The Rock clotheslines a guy from off of Vin Diesel’s shoulders, you see the whole damn thing, the way God intended.
9. THE END
I’m not going to spoil anything, but the scene that occurs during the credits is perfect. Not only does it interrupt that Ludacris song that was playing, “Rest Of My Life”, a song about Ludacris’ affection for “WOMEN, WEED AND ALCOHOOOOOOLLLLL!”, it manages to evoke a powerful “oooooooh shiiiiitttt” reaction from the audience, because it works on a few different levels.
Okay, I’ll spoil it. This scene sets up Jason Statham to be the villain in the next film. The first level of this working is that it’s a surprise. Statham wasn’t advertised for this film at all. In fact, there was a few news stories about Statham actually declining to star in Furious 6. The second reason it works is because it’s Jason Statham, who is enough of a film star that the surprise is effective, but is not famous enough that it becomes completely distracting. Had Brad Pitt shown up, everyone’s first thought would be Why in the hell did Brad Pitt decide to do Untitled Fast And Furious 7 Project? Statham is the perfect caliber of star for it to make sense.
And it works on a joke level, because of the career that Statham’s had, one defined by his propensity for starring in movies that had him driving quickly in cars. Every pop culture-minded human who see Furious 6 will immediately make the joke that it connects these films to the Transporter/Crank series’, and while the internet will turn this joke into an awful funhouse mirror of itself, like it does with everything, it’s probably one of the reasons that Statham was approached to be in the film. It’s a great mix of actual casting choice and novelty pick.
10. THE END (IN REAL LIFE)
Seeing Furious 6 wouldn’t have been half as fun if I had seen it by myself. On the drive back, my friends and I were equally excited about The Rock and Vin Diesel’s Doomsday Device, the surprise villain reveal in the end, and the fact that there was more tequila and Mortal Kombat to come. Okay, it was probably just me that was excited about the tequila, but my point still stands. When something kicks ass, it’s best to talk about how much it kicked ass. It’s what keeps humanity strong. So thanks, Furious 6. You’re helping to save the world. I’ll always keep you in my heart.