In my head, I have a number of movies that I think of as LA movies. They might not necessarily have much to do with LA aside from being set there, but they’re linked in my mind to the city. Especially after living here for a couple of years. Along with HEAT, SWINGERS, and a few others, is THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.
As of writing this, it’s Labor Day (I’m in America), and during this long weekend I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) with a friend and had lunch at one of those small seafood places along the highway. It took way too long for me to realize, really I’m sort of ashamed that it took me as long as it did, to realize that I was driving along where part of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS took place.
I’m talking about the scenes where Dom and Brian Earl Spilner show up a yuppie in his Ferrari and where Brian tries to get Dom to bring him into some criminal shenanigans while eating shrimp at Neptune’s Net. As an aside, I didn’t eat there. I had the fried seafood and fries combo at Malibu Seafood. It was pretty good, and I was surprised that it came with fried oysters instead of fried clam strips. I’m not a big fan of oysters, but these were pretty good. No grit, which I really don’t like in my clams and oysters.
Anyway, because of the drive, I got to wanting to watch THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS again. Which is what I did today. While it became this flashpoint for stupid people doing stupid things with cars, it’s still rather fun and a really solid movie. Paul Walker is channeling Keanu Reeves in Point Break, which this movie basically is, only with cars instead of surfing, but it works well enough to stand on its own merits. Vin Diesel brings out one of his few/two awesome badass characters in Dominic Toretto. Really this and Riddick from PITCH BLACK/CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK are the only characters of his that are worth much contemplating and I’m glad he’s getting another turn with Riddick. And Dom for that matter. Seriously, it’s good that he knows where his awesome is.
For the purposes of this blog post though, I have to say that Rick Yune’s Johnny Tran is a really ridiculous character, in terms of how much of a surreally accurate Asian he is. Seriously, he’s incredibly true to life, taking into account the insanity of the world the characters exist in, sorta like Scott Pilgrim, if he was Asian and more of a jerk and wasn’t as good of a fighter. Also, I guess he’s playing Vietnamese even though he’s mixed-Asian that doesn’t include Vietnamese. And his buddy Lance is played by Reggie Lee who is Filipino or something, imdb isn’t really helpful on that point.
Back to Johnny Tran, he plays this sorta gangster/street racer guy who is the sorta douchey bad guy to Dom’s sorta charismatic bad guy, but it seems like the main sticking point, aside from Dom sticking his sister, is that Johnny believes that Dom got him arrested in front of his family.
Really, he gets punched out by Dom because he says “SWAT came into my house, disrespected my whole family because somebody narc’d me out! And you know what? IT WAS YOU!”
You really need to watch the movie for how completely affecting and true to Asian this moment is.
I can definitely relate to that sentiment, being Asian. I don’t street race, and don’t have cheekbones like Rick Yune, or henchman-star in James Bond movies like him, but you get the idea. It’s really kind of a dick move to involve the parents in a conflict between the kids, by which I mean Johnny and Dom, and to a lesser extent undercover cop Brian O’Conner. Admittedly, it wasn’t actually Dom narcing on Johnny, but still. That’s a completely dick move.
I think that the much of the emotion of that moment, and the overall conflict, is that you have strict Asian parents being let in on what the kid is doing. This is predominantly if you’re the child of immigrant parents, by the way. Removed from the beating up a white guy and making him drink 40W oil, or jacking DVD players, you don’t narc to the parents about anything. If you were dating a white chick, even if there was another Asian peer that found out about it, and even if he wasn’t your friend, you’d expected him not to tell your parents or even his parents, because that sort of thing gets around. It can be an extremely small and tight community, especially with the parents.
I know that sounds like a nothing thing to have let out, but you’d get hassled for it from your parents and everyone knows that it would happen. So, it’s a really dick move.
That type of tattling is completely not cool. So, I understand Johnny Tran’s feelings, even if they are misguided and he’s a jerk for blowing up Brian’s sweet Eclipse. Not to mention shooting that autistic kid or something. In real life, it wouldn’t get criminal per se, but if you’re an Asian kid and you rat on another Asian kid in your circle of friends/acquaintances you really are kind of a douchebag. I know it was Brian O’Conner’s job and everything, but I wonder if his character had been Brian Chan, he would have had the arrest of Johnny Tran take place in a different location, away from the family.
I’ve heard that BETTER LUCK TOMORROW might expand on some of these sentiments better, but THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS really did it first.