A few weeks ago, I did a double feature that changed how I viewed the entire Fast and Furious franchise, and it’s an experience I would liken to dropping acid and then going to a Chuck E. Cheese. I was reviewing Abel Ferrara’s latest metaphysical surreal work Siberia for Cinapse, and you can’t view a film like that with a closed mind, because you could honestly argue some if not all of the film was a delusion of its protagonist. After that was over, I immediately followed that film up with Fast Five, because was I revisiting the franchise in anticipation for F9. Taking in that film with that frame of mind, still in place from Siberia allowed me to view it in a completely new light.
One thing that stood out to me thus far, in films one thru four, is they are grounded in some kind of “reality”. Fast and Furious (2009) was actually pretty bleak and had Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out on a revenge rampage after the death of his long time girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodríguez), who died trying to helping FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), clear his name. This film ends with Dominic Toretto helping Brian take down the bad guys and turning himself in, hoping for leniency for his part in helping the authorities. But instead of what you’d expect to happen in these movies, Dom is sentenced to 25 years in prison, which is what would really probably happen.
The film ends with Toretto on his way to prison with a convoy of cars driving up on his prison transport in an attempt to spring him before arriving at the prison.
See, my disconnect is we don’t see him get sprung in Fast and Furious, and it’s in Fast Five that the series veers off into the direction where cars can fly, the dead can come back, and all you need is family to defeat just about anything. There’s also that whole thread about Letty getting amnesia, which felt a little too Overboard-esque to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love this series because its patented brand of insanity, but what if, this was because Toretto was never freed from that prison transport? What if that bridge between Fast and Furious, Fast Five is where the rug is pulled out from under not just Toretto, but the audience as well.
My mind began to wonder watching this film, what if Toretto is currently sitting in solitary confinement or in a coma having witnessed all of his “family” die trying to rescue him that “fate-ful” day? I know that’s pretty bleak, but hear me out. The franchise makes such a sharp turn here and can feel like this odd mashup of a Marvel movie and a soap opera that at times ignores even that fragile logic in both narrative or plot. It’s something some really struggle with in this series and while trying to make sense of the chaos on screen, this logically explains how this series continues to bleed into this utter insanity.
I am not trying to say that’s bad, but if you think about the long form story of the series this really makes sense; I mean especially after F9. What if these films are some kind of surreal fever dream filled with not so subtle metaphors of a man who has lost everything and is on the brink of death? I mean he not only brought Letty back, but married her. I get it, no one likes an unhappy ending, but up until Fast Five no one was an expert hacker, knew Kung Fu or was a master spy, which are all skills the team have seemingly manifested themselves out of nowhere over the last few films.
Do I think this is legit? Probably not. Do I think it’s a fun yet somewhat grotesque explanation of how we got cars in space? Probably. All I know is while this was modulating in my subconscious and formulating it wasn’t until Roman remarks “Y’all ever thought about how many wild missions we’ve been on? And we somehow always survive?” that it all clicked. I mean even the characters are starting to notice the fact they cant die and that was a weird meta comment, which even had me scratching my head as to what was the eventual narrative setup here.