No Mincing Words

If I’d called Fast Five director Justin Lin yesterday and asked for a quick meeting at the Urth Caffe, he would have blown me off. Lin probably feels at this stage that he’s too much of a hot-shot to sit down with an online columnist. But let’s imagine for a second that he might have recalled our chats in ’06 about Better Luck Tomorrow and said “sure, fine…where and when?” Let’s also imagine that we both showed up on time, and we both ordered herbal tea.

HE: Good to see ya again, Justin.

JL: Yeah…four, five years. How ya been, Jeff?

JW: Good, good. It’s been five, I think.

JL: So let’s get into it. You don’t like the film, right? You hate it?

JW: I don’t hate it, no…not really. Well, kind of. It’s just that I really love that low-key Steve McQueen machismo thing. I love serious driving and fine-tuned machinery and high-speed chases. The kind I can really believe in, I mean. Love that stuff! And you…look, no offense, Justin, but your movie flat-out refuses to believe in any semblance of physical reality. You know, the stuff that’s out there when you drive on a real highway? Or a real two-lane blacktop in the desert? And so it locks me out of what’s happening on the screen. It keeps tromping on the accelerator and doubles-down and insists on an infantile and looney-tunes action-geek attitude. And I went into the theatre really wanting to have fun with this sucker…y’know? I wanted to laugh and clap my hands and kick back, and your movie kept pushing me away. So I have to believe you don’t really love fast-car movies like I do.

JL: The fuck…of course I do! Have you even seen the other ones?

JW: I’ve seen two of them. This one and Tokyo Drift, and they didn’t get me off, man. They’re not about the real thing. The first one, Rob Cohen‘s, was pretty good. But Fast Five is so cranked on CG cartoon steroids…it’s robotic, man. I’m almost sitting there in tears, begging to be let into the world of this movie so I can have some fun, and time and again it’s like you’re leaning over and saying to me, “Look, Jeff…I’d like to give you what you want to see, but it’s so much easier to make a bullshit CG Tom-and-Jerry action movie.”

JL: So you want to see another Bullitt?

JW: I want to believe in the action.

JL: McQueen was cool but you gotta move on. Y’know…embrace the now.

JW: I saw a YouTube video of a guy being chased by a cop car. Maybe two or three years old. He had video cameras mounted on the front and rear of his helmet. It was happening on a highway in what looked like cold, rainy weather, and the chase went on and on. Mostly the cop car was staying fairly close and sometimes the guy was pulling ahead. Really high speeds. And then the guy got off at an exit and cornered really hard to the left and the cop tried to do the same but his car couldn’t hold the pavement and he went sliding off the road and into some nearby brush and the motorcycle got away. I was into that video for thrills much more than any part of your film.

JL: I believe in Fast Five.

JW: You believe…what, in the money you’re making?

JL: I believe in doing it well, getting it done, people liking it, making movies that guys like James Rocchi are going to favorably review. And I believe in working with Universal and…you know, the marketing guys. And Fast Five is the kind of movie they want to sell.

JW: I was sitting there like a zombie, Justin….c’mon!

JL: You don’t understand what’s going on, Jeff.

JW: What’s going on?

JL: As a big-studio action director, I live in a kind of jail cell. Well, at least I do in my head. I mean, I can’t be Paul Greengrass…you know? I gotta be Justin Lin. And most big-studio action movies are about one thing — doing it louder, faster, cooler and more excitingly than the last action film. That’s all it’s about — the last movie made by the last guy. And if I can’t top the last guy, I’m dead. They’ll get somebody else to direct the next one.

JW: I liked that silent stare-down moment between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. It’s a very gay film. All the guys are really bulked up with lots of torn tissue and nobody really pays attention to the women. I mean, the women are “there” but it’s the male bodies and the eye-ball-to-eyeball male attitudes that dominate the film.

JL: Did you like their fight scene?

JW: No.

JL: Why?

JW: Because every time somebody hits or gets hit, they go “auggghh!” Or “whoooff!!” Or “ahhwwrrrll!” I hate that. People never groan when they hit each other in real fights. Ever. And fights are always over really quickly. Usually win a minute or two. Okay, I believed that long fight between Matt Damon and that North African agency guy. That went on for three or four minutes. But you’re…you said you’re not Greengrass. Not in your quiver. I only know that I was bored by the fight scenes. And the driving scenes. And the scene when they drag the vault through the streets of Rio.

  • Mr. F.

    “If I’d called Fast Five director Justin Lin yesterday and asked for a quick meeting at the Urth Caffe, he would have… blown me off.”

    I don’t know about yesterday… but that’s certainly true after this post.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    LOL.

    I guess we’ve finally reached the inevitable tipping point where the voices inside of Jeff’s head seem a lot more interesting to him than actually talking with a filmmaker.

    Well, to be fair, this probably is a lot more interesting.

  • Gaydos

    Hey, as the guy who put Justin on our VARIETY TEN DIRECTORS TO WATCH list many, many pre”Five” years ago and am still happy and proud of that choice, I just gotta say he’s just gotta call you and talk about the movie and the biz and life as we know it.

    It’s only right.

    Action movies are too serious an artistic mission to just walk away from what they can be if we don’t automatically assume the audience is brain dead.

    Yep, means you gotta rachet around with the budgets and it ain’t gonna be “Five” grosses, but as someone whose life was changed by “The Wild Bunch” to name only one action pic, what happens when you apply artistic vision, an informed political world view, heart, outrage, hurt, dreams, creative ambition and maybe the crazyass idea that you can change the world in some tiny way?

    You make something worth all the time and energy and talent that goes into making a film.

    You just don’t make as much money.

    That’s Lin on line two for Wells: “Jeff, as someone who thinks Carol Reed’s ‘The Third Man’ is a perfect film, I know where you’re coming from. However….”

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    “Hey, as the guy who put Justin on our VARIETY TEN DIRECTORS TO WATCH list many, many pre”Five” years ago and am still happy and proud of that choice”

    Why? What has he done in those five years since that’s been worth watching??

    Beaucouply fail.

  • C.C. Baxter

    Hilarious! What do you do when even Justin Lin will return your calls? Write imaginary interviews.

    Now to get to the bottom of this Ishtar debacle that is plaguing our country!

  • C.C. Baxter

    *will not*

  • K. Bowen

    That’s OK, Jeff. Next week, you can grab your purse and put on your handpuppet and go to a showing of The Beaver. I bet you can catch a matinee right after The View.

  • K. Bowen

    I should add:

    :)

  • Krillian

    Hat-tip to Lin for making the best-reviewed movie in the series. How many film series can say the fifth one made was the best one? Dare I say he’s made film history by being the only director ever to make the fifth installment the best in any series.

    Unless someone wants to make an argument for the fifth Andy Hardy movie…?

  • Gaydos

    Kanedmybeaucouplycrankyfriend:

    In January 2002, Justin Lin had made a little film called “Better Luck Tomorrow” and we at Variety prognosticated that this guy was very talented and had a terrific directing career ahead of him.

    Now, if you go back and look at what happened to dozens of other Sundance Competish directors in the past ten years, you might acknowledge that directing films for Universal that have now generated well over a half-billion dollars theatrically, not counting the new one, which seems poised to outdo the rest, means that our job of spotlighting filmmakers destined for great artistic or commercial success was noteworthy.

    Or you could sit there with your spectacles on your crinkled nose, your dogeared dictionary on the catpiss-stained shawl in your lap and bitch and moan about my mangling the English language and kvetch because Justin Lin is having an amazingly successful career that more than justified our selection way back when.

    It’s called TEN TO WATCH, not TEN TO PLEASE THE CRANKY ANORAK DWEEBS WHO THINK THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD BY GOD WHICH FILMS ARE WORTHY OF THEIR BLESSING.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Krillian: Yeah, it’s a strange franchise in that it seems to be getting increasingly larger. The anticipation for Fast Six is going to huge, too – they’ve even acknowledged they’re moving away from car racing and making them more straight-up heist films now. Johnson is signed to the subsequent films, and apparently approached Universal specifically asking to be included. Not often you get a semi-big star asking to join a franchise in its fifth instalment.

    Do have to wonder why the movie blogs seem to have anointed Tokyo Drift as the best one, though. Specifically the fanboy blogs, who all seem to think that Sonny Chiba’s presence alone elevates it to the level of some sort of arthouse classic. I guess they forgot that Lil Bow Wow also stars.

  • filmsofdusts

    I’m wondering when the last time Jeff Wells laughed and clapped and kicked back while watching a movie?

    I am guessing never.

    Meanwhile, Justin Lin is laughing all the way to the bank giving to a portion of the viewing public what they seem to actually want and enjoy even if it is not my cup of soy latte mocha blah blah wooha.

  • Rashad

    Are the stunts mostly practical? From the trailers it appears so, so who gives a shit whether it’s “realistic” or not? When I see the truck go over the bridge in T2 I’m not thinking how that can’t happen in real life, I’m thinking they actually drove a truck over through a bridge for real and that it’s awesome.

    Besides Lee, when was the last Asian guy to direct a successful blockbuster? (Well if you count Hulk being successful.)

  • Hamm Slamwich

    Is this the asshole tearing we were promised?

  • EBWarren

    “Dare I say he’s made film history by being the only director ever to make the fifth installment the best in any series.”

    Friday the 13th, Part V is generally considered the best in the series.

  • gFresh

    @EBWarren

    “Friday the 13th, Part V is generally considered the best in the series.”

    Gotta disagree – the previous entry is far superior. Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover and Tom Savini make-up effects. Easily the best in the series.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    “Besides Lee, when was the last Asian guy to direct a successful blockbuster?”

    Most likely Woo with Face/Off/M:I 2, but I could easily be forgetting somebody since then (also probably depends on your definition of blockbuster — are we talking domestic or international?).

  • Eloi Wrath

    Shyamalan is Asian.

  • Kakihara

    Not sure what you’re talking about in regards to accessibility, Jeff. I talked to Lin when he hosted Finishing the Game at the Nuart without a problem. Anyway, considering he’s on the ass end of a series which was probably getting old before he was even considered for any of the sequels, he’s probably doing the bet he can to stabilize it, if not improve on it. Complaining to Lin about F+F’s decline is like talking shit to Michael Apted over “The World is Not Enough”. Neither of them had anything to do with the devaluation of those franchises, and both are just trying to sell something audiences will see. Anyway, I’ll wait to find out what Lin can do with Highlander 2.0 before I make any calls.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Was that the most lucid DZ post of all time?

  • Kakihara

    Kane: He makes money, but he also helps bring more clout to Asian-American talent which often gets ignored by a Lily White industry. I mean, F5 is doing better than fucking Thor internationally, and they still wanna make the Japanese characters in Akira Caucasian, FFS.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    While the first Saw is probably not considered a “blockbuster” by even the most lenient of standards, it was enormously profitable — $100+ m worldwide on a budget of $1 m and change (not to mention he had the good sense to take his name off of any creative involvement in the sequels) — and Insidious seems to be on a somewhat similar track, so James Wan probably deserves a mention here.

    As for my favorite Friday flick, I’d too choose a Steve Miner production, although I’d probably go with 3 over 2. Although the second is probably the superior effort, the third really trips my nostalgia switch and has the best locations, unfrumpiest ’80s babes, and the most creative kills (all in glorious pre-Avatar 3-D, no less). For my money, that’s all I’m really looking for in those movies.

  • EBWarren

    Literally no one on Earth thinks that Friday the 13th Part 2 is any good. It’s terrible. It has no pacing, no suspense, no interesting kills, no personable actors, no memorable random moments, no quotable lines, nothing.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    “Was that the most lucid DZ post of all time?”

    It was borderline insightful, frighteningly enough. Luckily he put us all at ease with his next post that compared — in the past tense — the international B.O. success of two movies that haven’t even been released yet.

  • Rashad

    Speaking of Miner, Halloween: H20 is the second best out of that series.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    I dunno about second-best (what about part deux?), but I like most everything about that Halloween except for that fucking title. Getting too clever with titles = always a bad idea.

    “Ooooh, look it’s Halloween 666, see what they did there?”

    Uhhhh, no.

  • Max Cherry

    Ya know, the movie may be garbage, but so is a lot of this imaginary dialogue. Wells is suddenly bagging on Jame Rocchi and throwing him under a bus when just a week ago he was holding him up as an example of a fine and respectable critic? And his bit about real fights – “Because every time somebody hits or gets hit, they go “auggghh!” Or “whoooff!!” Or “ahhwwrrrll!” I hate that. People never groan when they hit each other in real fights. Ever. And fights are always over really quickly” – is complete bullshit. This tells me that Wells has never been in a real fight nor even been witness to a real fight in his life. I’ve been in a few and am around fighters, real professional fighters, the kind who actually make their living from, you know, punching people in the face, all the time. It’s like listening to women’s tennis sometimes, with the grunts and groans.

  • filmsofdusts

    Wait, I know when the last time Jeff laughed and clapped and kicked back watching a movie.

    It was Greenberg and he is probably watching it now on continuous playback on HBO on Demand.

  • rosengje

    Just last year, Justin Lin directed the best episode of comedy television: Community’s “Modern Warfare.”

    The talent is there, it’s just a matter of what he chooses to focus his energy on.

  • bluefugue

    Absent an actual interview, I thought this piece was pretty brilliant.

  • Kakihara

    Kane: Actually, Thor got an early release in Oz.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    I’m just glad that, over the years, Lin backed down after being connected to that Oldboy remake. That would have been many degrees south of watchable.

  • Kakihara

    Gabe: I don’t think he really had a say on Oldboy.

  • JLC

    I can’t wait to read Jeffrey’s imaginary interview with Will and Kate. Or maybe he’ll farm that one out to Jett.

  • Krillian

    Actually Friday the 13th Part V was one of the worst reviewed of a poorly-reviewed series, but I’m guessing Warren’s kidding.

  • nemo

    This imaginary interview reminds me of guys I knew in high school and college who would talk themselves out of asking some girl out.

    Instead of just approaching her in a friendly pleasant manner, the guy would engage himself in some imaginary dialog in which she would not only reject him, but humiliate him as well. He’d end up never even talking with her, telling himself he would never want to go out with such a bitch anyway.

  • a_loco

    Haven’t seen Fast Five, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I remember vaguely enjoying Tokyo Drift, despite Bow Wow and all the annoying glimpses of Japanese pop culture.

    However, saying Justin Lin is improving the series with Fast & Furious (4) is just fucking wrong. That movie has to be one of the worst pieces of shit every released. The only remarkable thing about that film was that it was the final tipping point in which Vin Diesel became even less charismatic than Paul Walker.

    However, I’m also probably in the minority on 2 Fast 2 Furious, which I think is a near masterpiece of subversion. You can feel Singleton’s disdain for every character, along with the whole street racing culture, dripping from every frame. That, and the homoeroticism between Walker and Tyrese is pitch perfect.

  • a_loco

    However, I probably say “however” a little too often.

  • bents75

    “However, I’m also probably in the minority on 2 Fast 2 Furious, which I think is a near masterpiece of subversion. ”

    YES! I’m glad I’m not alone. I coudln’t care less if I never saw 1,3, or 4 EVER again, but I actually own a copy of 2 Fast 2 Furious. Its maybe the greatest of my guilty pleasures. And it’s highly rewatchable.

    It’s like discounted K-mart masterpiece version of Miami Vice in my eyes. Hell, it’s probably better than Miami Vice at the end of the day, and being a huge Mann fan, I don’t say that lightly.

  • Ponderer

    “Just last year, Justin Lin directed the best episode of comedy television: Community’s “Modern Warfare.”

    Hear, hear. That might be one of the best five episodes of television ever, and it’s certainly in no small part due to Lin’s absolute command of every action style ever devised. A tour-de-force that he will probably never even get to attempt on the big screen.

    Ever notice that televised comedy is about seven thousand times more intelligent and daring than comedy movies these days?

  • Wiggumx

    Well, I was beaten to the punch twice on pointing out that he directed Modern Warfare, which I, oddly enough, just re-watched earlier today and noticed his name as the director.

    “I talked to Lin when he hosted Finishing the Game at the Nuart without a problem.”

    If you are going to invent any more interviews, PLEASE start with this one. I am imagining how fast DZ got around to accusing Lin of ripping off anime in one of his movies and not giving it any credit.

  • Ray DeRousse

    I was really expecting an asshole tearing, but this phony interview sounds more like Jeff trying to buddy-up to Lin and get on his level, MAN.

    It ain’t workin’.

  • Ray DeRousse

    Also, that picture of you is from 1983 or so. UPDATE!

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