One of my favourite movie franchises began almost 20 years ago. This is sometimes hard to believe, given the number of movies that I've truly enjoyed that have stood the test of time, but there's something uniquely special about this particular series. Some movie franchises, such as the Bourne series, keep us interested because of the adrenaline rush that comes from seeing the main character consistently stay one or more steps ahead of his adversaries. This series, Fast and Furious, remains one of my favourites primarily because it's one of the few sets of movies where I feel it's okay to "turn the brain off" before settling in to enjoy the action. I love racing cars. When I wasn't doing it for real while young and invincible, I was busy with EA's Need for Speed franchise of racing games. There is no point in denying that — deep down — I enjoy competing directly and vicariously in this arena.
Today, while waiting for the boy to fall asleep, I decided to watch a little bit of the first Fast and Furious movie. This was a time when everyone was still quite young. Brian was a cop. Dom drove an import. The romances we saw at the end of F8 were just in their infancy. It was a simpler time. Nobody had expectations for a sequel.
The brain was squarely "off" before the end of the Universal Studios logo. Despite not seeing this particular movie for quite some time, we know what we're in for ahead of time. In the words of the immortal Rick Sanchez: Don't think about it. As long as you don't, the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. Races feel fast and real. The obvious product placements for Panasonic, Corona, Mazda, Corona, Subaru, Corona, and NOS are just part of the story. The bad acting, one-dimensional antagonists, incontestable plot holes, asinine catch-phrases, and throwaway supporting characters barely draw any attention. Heck, even the obviously forced attempts at swearing and rage can be taken in stride. All because we know ahead of time that this is going to be a stereotypical "guy movie".
Even after nineteen years, none of this bothers me. The movie is just as enjoyable now as it was in 2001 when I saw it in theatres. Except …
One thing that has changed over the almost two decades since this movie first came out is my reaction to the gratuitous use of scantily-clad young women. When I was in my mid-20s the shots of long legs, dark skin, midriffs, and fiery eyes captured my attention just as much as the Nissans, Mazdas, Subarus, and Hondas they stood beside. Now, though … I'm not at all interested in the "kids" standing next to the pimped out vehicles. If anything, they're in the way. I want to see and hear the cars, not a bunch of bimbos who — as per the script — are looking to get next to those who compete and win.
Perhaps this means I'm "old". Maybe it means I would rather just spend time with a car than a fickle sleeping partner. I'm content with either assessment. There's far more to life than sex, after all. A fast car and an open road can keep me content and mostly out of trouble for years.
This is perhaps what I like most about the Fast and Furious movies. They do the things that I would not dare do anymore, and I can live vicariously through this fiction. Running from the cops. Hijacking shipments. Screaming through a 30km school zone at 220kph. These are the actions best left to the world of make believe, and there isn't a better description of Fast and Furious than "a fantasy world where having the fastest car equates to freedom from responsibility".
May I never tire of these movies ….