Fast & Furious, Bride Wars

Film reviews for April 2: Diesel and Walker return, Hudson and Hathaway sink
Fast & Furious
Rating:

Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, John Ortiz, Laz Alonso, Gal Gadot, Jack Conley, Shea Whigham, Liza Lapira, Sung Kang. written by Chris Morgan, from characters created by Gary Scott Thompson.


“New Model. Original Parts.” A nice way of saying Justin Lin´s Fast and Furious is more of the same. Forgive me if I´m not too excited by the anticipated reteaming of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; the first Fast and the Furious wasn´t all that great, and the two Diesel-less sequels weren´t appreciably worse (or better). So here´s a fourth film with a B-movie plot and theatrics, fast cars and scantily clad women, high-octane chases and slam-bang action, and who could expect (or want) anything else.

Dominic Toretto (Diesel) is back to his old tricks in the Dominican Republic, hijacking an eighteen-wheeler with his crew and lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in the film´s first (and best) scene. When the local cops close in on his operations, he flees the country and leaves his crew behind. Some time later, Dom learns that Letty has been murdered in LA; he returns to the US despite outstanding warrants to chase down those responsible. Meanwhile, FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Walker) is after a Mexican drug lord who runs street races in LA to find the best drivers to deliver his goods. You won´t be surprised to learn both Dom and Brian are hunting the same man, and they team up to find him. About a third of the way through the picture, you know exactly where the rest of the film is headed.

Action mostly delivers: aside from the opening scene there´s a nice video game-inspired race through downtown LA streets and a climatic run in Mexico. When the characters are outside their vehicles, however, the film stumbles through misused shaky-cam and hyper-edited Bourne stylistics, complete with a bizarre gunfight where we don´t know who is shooting at who, or for that matter, why. Not that the chase scene are all that more coherent; remember the days of Bullitt or The French Connection, where we could actually see what was going on? Long gone – who needs to understand a chase scene when you can feel it instead. Logic is dealt a similar blow; why turn left to avoid an overturned, flaming rig tumbling down a mountain road, when you can time it just right and drive beneath it.

Cast is profoundly bland. I don´t know if Diesel or Walker had what it takes, but the first Fast and the Furious vaulted them to some level of stardom; they´ve made exactly one good film apiece since then (not counting Walker´s smallish role in Flags of our Fathers), Diesel in Lumet´s underrated Find Me Guilty and Walker in Running Scared. Fast and Furious not only doesn´t buck that trend, but both actors seem to have less charisma here than the last time we saw them together.

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Jordana Brewster is a pretty young actress who deserves far better than what Hollywood has given her; here, she returns to the thankless role of Diesel´s sister, a character that could´ve been excised completely and the film wouldn´t miss a beat.

The bad guys, drug runners played by John Ortiz and Laz Alonso, manage to be even blander than our heroes. Given a chance to ham it up, they fail to elicit much hatred from the audience, resulting in some climatic scenes that are less satisfying than they ought to be. By the end, they´re forgotten entirely.

But what do you want? They´ve drop a ‘the´ or two from the title and given us the same film we´ve seen three times before. Fans of series, if there are (m)any, should be satisfied.

 

***

Fast & Furious, Bride Wars

 

Bride Wars
Rating:

Directed by Gary Winick. Starring Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey, Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Michael Arden, Victor Slezak, Kelly Coffield, John Pankow. Written by Greg DePaul and Casey Wilson & June Diane Raphael.

A romantic comedy that provides neither romance nor comedy, Gary Winick´s Bride Wars is what many will call a “chick flick”. Now, you can pander to an audience and get away with it, but few films outright insult their audience and live to tell their tale. The lead characters in Bride Wars are such repellent female stereotypes – some kind of cross between Paris Hilton and a Stepford Wife – that I can´t imagine the target audience wouldn´t be offended. Maybe I´m wrong, but even then, this film fails by its own low standards.

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson star as Emma and Liv, two women who´ve have one dream in life: to have a grand wedding at The Plaza in NYC. So the two get engaged around the same time, and of course their weddings are accidentally booked on the same day, and this starts off the titular feud, which is somewhat less engaging than Hatfield-McCoy or War of the Roses. This is, like the worst of these movies, a film about a less-than-petty war, which involves sending an ex-friend chocolates in hopes she won´t fit in her wedding dress, and exchanging hair dye or tanning spray, and spreading pregnancy rumors, and that old standby, playing the Tijuana spring break video at the wedding ceremony. It’s this year’s What Happens in Vegas.

The events, or lack thereof, are narrated by Candice Bergen, in a thankless role as the wedding planner. There are the fiancées, yes, played by Chris Pratt and Steve Howey, but they are comically relegated to background detail. I don´t even recall a quick smooch between them and their future wives.

The ending tries to have it’s cake and eat it too: by supplying us with two weddings, the filmmakers seem to have decided they can arbitrarily present both possible outcomes. It’s shockingly unsatisfying.

Supporting cast is dull, but Hathaway and (maybe) Hudson are talented actresses: they have to work hard to get us to hate them. In Bride Wars, they´re shrill caricatures of misogynistic stereotypes, letting out a screeches of excitement with elbows to their chests and hands violently shaking in front of their faces. “I´m getting married!”

I suppose the male equivalent of a film like this is Fast and Furious, or going back further, something with a Stallone or Van Damme. But in those movies, the male characters were presented, successfully or not, as heroic action figures with strong moral codes. Icons to be revered.

Who in the world would identify with or care for or look up to the female leads in Bride Wars? The male equivalent to these stereotypes would have to be a lazy, pot-bellied, wife-beating drunkard. Which, certainly, you´ll see in some gritty cop dramas. But I await their appearance in a romantic comedy.


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