First published by Little White Lies, as part of a longer contributors’ section on homoeroticism in film
Much ink has already been spilt on the polyethnic world in which the Fast and Furious franchise unfolds. The prologue to the first sequel, John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, illustrates this in microcosm, as whiter-than-white Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) competes in a street rally with an African-American, a Latino and a half-Japanese. Here ‘race’ has a double-meaning, with people of different backgrounds unified by the American dream of driving a blinged-out, pimped-up motor to fame, fortune – and a cash prize. In a touch of cynical realism, the white man wins.
Yet in this race to be on top, there is also sex, with automobiles used as the metaphorical vehicle for all kinds of interpersonal bumping and grinding. “When are you gonna pop my clutch?”, master mechanic Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) asks female driver Suki (Devon Aoki), before advising her to “Bring that body by the garage so we can work on that front end of yours.” Yet in a manly world where macho drivers don’t always like to “roll with skirt”, the film’s key relationship is the bromance between Brian and his old criminal ‘homie’ (Tyrese Gibson) who goes by the overtly pornified name Roman (or ‘Rome’) Pearce. This friendship comes with a (subversively?) homoerotic sheen to its pastel chrome surface.
Even if Brian is “willing to play ball” and work with the FBI and US Customs Service, he needs his former friend(‘s) back. Rome, however, is reluctant to rekindle their relationship (even if they celebrate their reunion with a close wrestle in the dirt). “When I needed your ass, you were nowhere to be found,” Rome complains – although it is unclear whether Rome is more annoyed because Brian abandoned him to become an ‘undercover’ cop, or because he crossed a heterosexual line. “Women”, as villain Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) points out, “are a very powerful force” – and Rome, sceptically observing Brian’s eye drift towards Customs agent Monica Fuentes (Eve Mendes), warns, “You’re always getting in trouble over a female.”
What Rome prefers, obviously, is, “You and me – just like the old days.” And he gets it. For once these ‘bros’ have literally rear-ended Carter, they ride off together again into the sunset, with Rome promising to stay with his friend in Miami and “Keep you out of trouble, brae – you know what I’m talking about.” When in Rome, do as Roman does…
© Anton Bitel