It is sometimes amazing, in this technological age where we create content in the span of a few keystrokes, how much can so easily slip right past even the most attentive radar trackers. That’s not to say that I’m all that attentive, mind you, but when it comes to film, I like to think I’ve got a fairly eclectic group of sites that I check on a daily basis to help keep me abreast of those choicest of choice nuggets out there.
Which leads me to a find earlier this week, on Shadow and Act (much love to you guys, btw), a posting about a brief Fast & Furious prequel from 2009, which was written and directed by Vin Diesel. Los Bandoleros features appearances from Tokyo Drift‘s Han (Sung Kang), Tego (Tego Calderón), and Alejandro (Don Omar), three of the international street racing bandits who will become larger players in the Fast & Furious trilogy (installments four through six) to follow – from director Justin Lin. The short also spotlights the strong intimate bond between Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).
There are a couple of intriguing elements at play in Los Bandoleros worth mentioning. One is the narrative’s focus on an issue – that of the lack of resources, in particular gasoline, in the Dominican Republic, where Dom and his gradually expanding crew have set up shop. At the start, Tego preaches a hellfire sermon from his prison cell to his jailhouse congregation about the income and resource disparity that exists and a need for change. Then the film moves to the streets with Alejandro working his way through the community, backslapping and glad-handing everyone he meets. He’s the quintessential man of the streets, the soon-to-be jovial Friar Tuck (along with Tego) of Dom’s merry band of hoods. And of course, there’s Dom himself, the Godfather, ruling with familial love and the unspoken threat to any who would cross his family or his larger sense of community.
The crew have been commissioned for a job, in fact, the initial highway heist of three fuel tankers that kicks off Fast & Furious (part four), but Los Bandoleros is all set-up, with none of the vehicular hijinks we’ve come to expect from the series, which is the second element of surprise. It seems impossible to imagine Dom and his crew lounging about, wandering among the people, actually working their connections prior to one of their high octane adventure set pieces, but that is exactly what Los Bandoleros is. The calm before the strum and drag racing through the streets, the vehicular mayhem on the horizon, and it highlights the softer side of Dom and Letty and the rest of the crew. Most of the expanded cast of characters are absent (key among them Paul Walker’s Brian and Jordana Brewster as Dom’s sister Mia), but this interlude lays the foundation for this growing family and the sense that while it is one created rather than determined by birth it is no less enduring or able to inspire its members to move mountains to protect and defend the clan.
Beneath all the fast cars, flying fists, and bald pates, there is nothing but love in Dom’s heart and as Los Bandoleros illustrates, in Vin Diesel’s vision of the franchise.