I’m on Pop Culture Happy Hour today for the first time since our bummed-out post-election Pop Culture Serotonin Spectacular. And it was all the way back in December 2015 that I last shared the studio with the great Gene Demby of the Code Switch blog and podcast, when we broke down Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I always feel things have gone well when I’m with Gene; he’s a calming presence I guess. Most of this week’s episode was recorded live on stage in Chicago at last week, and neither Gene not I were present for that, so we’re in the first segment only. The topic is The Fate of the Furious, a film I reviewed… unfavorably.
One thing I said in the studio that didn’t make the cut was to cite an example of a wackass movie that has what I called “a guiding intelligence” on the show: John Wick is set in a bizarro world that screenwriter Derek Kolstad has taken care to imagine vividly, letting us see some of its weird economy and language. In Wick, The Continental is a hotel (played by that Flatiron Building) frequented by assassins. To commit any act of violence on its grounds, or even to make arrangements on Continental property for “business” to be conducted elsewhere is forbidden on pain of excommunication. John Wick is no more “realistic” an action film than any entry in the Fast & Furiad, but it’s a much more richly imagined one, and to my mind, substantially better. But to confine our comparison to the action flick meat-and-potatoes, Keanu’s stunt driving and hand-to-hand fighting are—like his, you know, acting—much more persuasive than Vin Diesel’s. Man, I do not get that guy at all.
Neither Wick nor Fast can touch something like Mad Max: Fury Road, of course — but I do think it’s fair to compare the Furiosities to the Missions: Impossible. And that comparison does not favor Fast.
I read Bee Shapiro’s New York Times interview with Diesel this week, and I spent most of it thinking maybe I’d misjudged him. He was a theatre kid! He aspire to work with Sidney Lumet! Thank god he reaffirmed his essential d-baggery right at the end, where he put Dom and Letty into the canon of Western literature.