and sometimes poetry

Fast Five (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

Virginia Woolf at her picture palace, Friday 15 January, 1915: “as usual, the drama is very boring. I wish one liked what everyone likes. The Hall was crowded, roars of laughter, applause &c.” Oh, Virginia you eternal sprayer of truth! For does this not firmly limn the experience we too have endured, ensconced in the shabby crimson and at-par seating of the Cinemark at Hampshire Mall? The chuckles, the hoots, everywhere the huge sounds of vacuous delight and our own small, tight tumor of dislike metastasizing in its midst—hunched over popcorn, muttering at Mark through the previews, the opening credits, the absurd action sequences spackled unappealingly with dialogue, inspecting all through the mist of our utter rejection of it. To be of the crowd, but not in it, to join its tumid ranks only to feel—again, again—the utter aloneness of the self and her tiny array of tastes—such smallish smorgasbords, such mealy fruits! Why could we not like Fast Five? Everyone else around us did. The opening action sequence—which involved a high-speed train, three slutty sports cars, and an all-terrain vehicle that looked like the Short Circuit robot on ‘roids—induced actual gasps of amazement; no one yawned, or at least not loudly, at the long stretches of limp-dick one-liners masquerading as “plot.” In fact people seemed highly entertained by the machinations which ultimately brought Dwayne Johnson’s sweaty-headed American cop dude over to (spoiler alert!) the dark, car-thieving side of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and every ethnic minority side-kick ever sponsored by an action movie franchise.

Also never seen any of the Fast & Furiouses; also clearly not a loss. What one wants in a movie like this is continual, continuously inventive action—characters played by hulks like Diesel or Johnson cannot afford to be developed, nor should the precise angles of Diesel’s and Walker’s sister/wife triangle attempted to be solved. No one is smart enough in an enterprise such as this—not the director, not the screenwriter, not the actors, and certainly not the act—and rather than be reminded of that as one sits alone shoveling popcorn into one’s maw and alienation, rather than be implicated in that dumbness, one should be transported above one’s own wicked tendencies towards analysis, left floating somewhere beyond the incessantly snapping pinchers of one’s brain. Like enthusiastic camp counselors, action movies should get you to allow yourself to behave in ways you normally never do, laugh at shit you’d never normally laugh at, cringe and register whole spectrums of response that you have generally coded “off limits” or “no longer” or “not really in public.” That is their gift: release from the crowded cage of one’s constantly cogitating, depressingly discriminating, endlessly exceptive skull. That’s it. That’s all we wanted, Fast Five, all poor Virginia asked for herself way back when, all the binding power that popular art can muster, do, and be: allowance, even rarely, into the golden, tawdry, cozy halls of everyone else.

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