According to BoxOfficeMojo, since 2001 the seven Fast and the Furious films have sold 172,497,200 movie tickets in the United States and Canada. Not a single one of those tickets was purchased by me.
Yes, somehow I, your humble film/TV blogger, have never seen a Fast and the Furious movie. That is going to change this weekend as I intend to take in the reportedly insane, yet overall mediocre The Fate of the Furious. But how is it that I have lived the life of a pop culture obsessive and never found the time to watch even one of these monumentally popular movies over the past 16 years?
Simple: I’m not a car guy. Car porn does nothing for me.
I don’t find Vin Diesel’s lack of acting ability, his signature mumble and dedication to just playing the one note throughout his whole career, oddly charming or endearing. Instead, unless it’s Iron Giant, the first Pitch Black or Guardians of the Galaxy I find him to be a colossal, hard-to-understand bore.
I liked the “undercover cop grows too close to the gang he’s infiltrated” plot better the first time I saw it in Point Break.
I was dragged by a friend to see the first xXx, and figured if this non-stop display of terrible was what Vin Diesel left the Fast and the Furious movies for (as he famously attempted to do) then they must really suck.
Plus, I noted the lack of any meaningful critical support for the early Fast and Furious movies, and never saw a need to give them a chance, even after their Rock-infused mid-franchise renaissance. So what if The Rock made the films better? People said the same thing about the G.I. Joe sequel he did, and I thought that movie was terrible.
I’m…a total liar, and clearly a bit of a film snob.
Truth is, I have seen a Fast and the Furious movie.
Let me explain: Back in my video store days, I worked with a car enthusiast named Tom. Even though it was against the rules stating we were to only play G or PG movies over the TVs in the store, he occasionally put on the PG-13 rated The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
I never actually stood there and watched it with him, as I often would during slow stretches and when we were playing something we both liked. So, I couldn’t tell you the plot of Tokyo Drift. I more remember occasionally looking up and seeing yet another street racing scene, and then looking over at Tom flashing what I assumed was his O-face. Seriously, watching him watch a car racing scene felt like intrusion, as if I needed to give him some privacy. He would often tell me about the local car racing scene he was actually a part of, and excitedly describe the various ways he’d souped-up his car. Tokyo Drift wasn’t just a movie to him; it was an aspirational dream and how-to manual.
And, really, good for him.
But that’s not for me. I’ve simply never really gotten into car culture. As a kid, I didn’t bond with a father figure over fixing cars nor was I surrounded by brothers or uncles or cousins who preached the almighty gospel of the muscle car. I had some toy cars, and recall thinking the sports cars in the Cannonball Run movies looked freakin’ sweet. Yet I preferred playing with my G.I. Joe’s (thus the reason I saw G.I. Joe: Retaliation). My action movie heroes growing up sure blew up a lot of shit, but other than Arnold and his Terminator motorcycle I never closely identified an automobile with any of them. By the time I got a car of my own, a 1991 Ford Probe (a hand-me down from an older brother), I sure thought it looked cool, but when a neighbor described all the ways I could trick out the rims and hood and turn it into a racer I stared back blankly, thinking, “Why in the world would I want to do that?”
Thus, my brief exposure to the franchise through a car nut co-worker combined with my own personal disinterest in the subject matter resulted in me never seeing the point in watching a Fast and the Furious movie.
Then a funny thing happened: the damn movies became the biggest thing going in showbiz outside of Marvel Studios. Furious 7 became the first of the films to gross over $1 billion worldwide, and currently stands as the 6th highest-grossing film of all time (not if you adjust for inflation….blah, blah, blah). My obstinance left me on the outside of a worldwide phenomenon, and my non-Vin Diesel-related objections didn’t even make sense anymore. The films apparently stopped being about cars several installments ago, and now press forward as unofficial comic book movies with our old cops and car racers as glorified superheroes engaging in the world’s craziest stunt scenes.
But I’m already so far behind. I suddenly empathize with casual comic book movie fans who look at the latest sequel and lament, “How many movies do I now have to rent/stream just to understand this new one?”
So, fuck it. I’m not going to watch any of the prior Fast and the Furious movies. That would mean hours upon hours and quickly-escalating dollars thrown at something on the same weekend that Netflix just dropped the new Mystery Science Theater 3000. No thanks on the former, but how quickly can I start watching the latter?
Thanks to Fast and the Furious franchise retrospectives on sites like Vox, I think I get it:
The movies make no sense. No one cares. They’re just there to see the latest insane stunt scene before everything gets wrapped up in some mumbled speech about family. And Vin Diesel can’t act but we’re all somehow okay with it.
Cool. Got it. Fate of the Furious, here I come.
What about you? Are you a Fast and Furious hold-out? Enthusiast? Somewhere in-between? Let me know in the comments.