Streaming: Fast & Furious and Other Great Car Movies | Fast and furious
IIt’s funny to think that it’s been 20 years since the release of the first film from the Fast Furious franchise – then just called The Fast and the Furious (Amazon), free of numbers, but embellished with defined articles now obsolete. At the time, it seemed as throwaway fun as any: a silly, flashy, fluorescent update to the 1950s hot rod B movies, more of a slightly retro novelty than anything else.
The movies have since swelled pretty much beyond recognition, taking on bigger and bigger stars, increasingly complex concepts, and increasingly inflated vehicles. Sometimes, like in 2011 Fast Five (Amazon), the engine starts on all cylinders. The last time, in the too long, overpumped The The fate of the furious (2017; Apple TV), we could feel the series going in circles. Now available on DVD / Blu-ray and non-premium VOD, F9 falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not as simple as the title might suggest; Running around two and a half hours and moving away from the franchise’s home territory to send cars into space is a big, silly flexing exercise, but executed with just enough sticky plume to be fun.
I prefer the leaner, meaner, and more grounded genre, however. You can hardly say more under all the muscle and shine, but the DNA of blockbusters can be traced back to garbage as cheap and cheerful as 1958’s Gene Vincent with Gene Vincent. Hot rod gang (available only as a risky bootleg) and a number of similarly titled films, where the stories are as anemic as the runners’ quiffs are bulky.
Want a classier and harder version? From the same year, Thunder road (Amazon) has merged the hot rod craze with film noir styling, with a Robert Mitchum of steel as the moonlight delivery driver whose elevated Ford continues to clash with gangsters. Meanwhile, illustrating the difference between the driving cultures in the US and UK, the great British racing car movie of the time was the relatively distinguished and impactful London to Brighton game. Genevieve (1953; BritBox).
By the 1970s, hot rod culture was already nostalgia, as the tastes of American graffiti (Netflix) and Fat (Apple TV). The 1960s had taken fast car cinema to a sleeker and sharper level with the frantic car chases of Steve McQueen’s hypercool crime thriller. Bullitt (Apple TV) and the more eccentric British hijinks of Italian work (Now TV), which has retained some Genevievethe cuteness of on a higher octane scale.
The sprawling big screen show of grand prize (1966; Apple TV) merged the recklessness of racing cinema with the romance of sports film. Le Mans (Amazon), made in 1970 with McQueen and a hint of docu-style authenticity, was better. Twenty years later, Tony Scott and Tom Cruise are loud, exhausting but fleetingly beautiful Days of thunder (Chile) was a bit worse. Recently, Le Mans ’66 (Virgin Go) – a beautifully crafted, minimal-inspired, rock-solid daddy movie – proved that the genre still has gasoline in the tank.
These days pretty much every fast car movie is a call to something else. Edgar Wright’s lickety-split Baby Driver (2017; Netflix) is nothing but a hot rod movie for the 21st century. It’s smart, but not as cool as Nicolas Winding Refn’s gorgeous and macabre Drive (2011; BFI Player), who took the brooding minimalism of Walter Hill’s 1970s gem The driver (Amazon) and added a whole bunch of neon nihilism to it. Finally, the biggest and craziest auto movie of our time (of all time?) Is itself a franchise entry. The exhilarating of George Miller Mad Max: Fury Road (2015; Apple TV) – all the grimy, apocalyptic spectacle of ’80s movies, amplified to the 10th power, minus Mel Gibson – stays faster and more furious than anything else in its way.
Also new in streaming and DVD
Now available on DVD / Blu-ray and available on Mubi, this class war provocation by Mexican author Michel Franco won the Grand Prix in Venice last year and has many passionate admirers. I am less convinced. Extremely well-done but politically hollow, its depiction of a darker-skinned working class vengeance on the elite feigns a position on both sides, but there is an exploitative colourism involved.
The most beautiful boy in the world
In 1970, Luchino Visconti played the 15-year-old Swede Björn Andrésen as Tadzio in Death in Venice, after a European-wide search for the ultimate emblem of young male beauty. This claim, for a role that doubles as an object of queer desire and an angel of death, was a heavy burden to place on a child. Kristina lindströThe moving and heartbreaking documentary by m and Kristian Petri explores how it haunted Andresen’s life for five decades.
Kicking off a mini-season of previously unreleased South Korean films in the UK, Yoon Dan-bi’s delicately melancholy but devoid of sentimental family drama is a most promising start. Tracing the beautiful intergenerational tensions that ensue when a struggling divorced father moves his children to his own father’s house, he is indebted to Edward Yang and Yasujirō Ozu, but has his own airy modernity.