F2.5: Los Bandoleros (2009 – Vin Diesel)

Letty

The next film produced in the series was Justin Lin’s first contribution, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), but gluttony, and a love of Sung Kang’s Han Seoul-Oh character, meant that the following film in the franchise (which featured the return of Vin Diesel), was set chronologically before it.  It gets increasingly entertaining to see the various heavy-handed mentions of Han going to Tokyo as they began to fit more and more films into this gap.  It’s a bit like Narnia in the regard.  Because I’m a masochist, I’ve decided to watch the series in chronological order, rather than production order.

 

But before we reach the next entry… a short film directed by Vin Diesel! 

So Dom goes to the Dom(inican Republican).  For a star who has relied on his racial ambiguity, it is curious that Los Bandoleros begins to tie Vin Diesel to a specific heritage.  It doesn’t end there; the small touches of previous films begin to be reasserted as character traits.  Meal times (a hugely pleasurable thing to watch – Hollywood neglects the vicarious thrill of watching people eat because of its industrial-strength eating disorders), Catholicism, the family unit, are all promoted to the forefront.  At the same time, the series begins to recede in its use of its initial hook, that of street racing.  Much like how the series has re-orientated characters in the past, it now begins to re-orientate the very texture of the film itself.

Eradicated from the previous movie, Los Bandoleros exists to reintroduce Vin Diesel’s superiority within the franchise.  The twenty minute runtime is little more than an extended visual bon-mot for Toretto.  Whilst Dom is sexualised (he openly flirts with several women) in a way that is quite unbecoming of his character, he is ultimately reigned in (and outshone in performance) by Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty.  Little more than a supporting character in the first film, Los Bandoleros recognises the captivating intelligence of Rodriguez – one of the great, occasionally dangerous, screen presences of the modern era. The Fast and the Furious franchise relies on subtle shifts in character; histories are constantly rewritten and fresh explanations for behaviour are given for actions in each film.  Dom and Letty become a wild, passionate romance… for no reason other than they are two attractive, compelling stars.

With his leap into directing, and his assertive dominance over the franchise through his role as a producer, Vin Diesel moves closer to adopting the career of Sylvester Stallone.  Like Stallone, Diesel is a hyper-naturalistic, gravelly-voiced actor who relies on the sweaty thrill of the audience gazing at his body.  Diesel begins to create a cinematic identity that is similar to Stallone’s too; conforming to a very specific paternal form of masculinity, where his character is unquestionably adored by the supporting cast.

Whilst the short films in the franchise have always been more visually adventurous than the main series, Los Bandoleros has some pretensions of documentary realism… if that documentary was some Jamie Oliver food tourism nonsense.  Admirably, the dialogue is subtitled for much of the running time, but ultimately the short film is an elaborate set-up for the next entry in the series, with some rather reductive arthouse pretensions.

Fast & Furious rankings:

 

  1. The Fast and the Furious
  2. 2 Fast 2 Furious
  3. Los Bandoleros
  4. Turbo Charged Prelude

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