I’m Convinced Tyrese’s ‘F9’ Character Is Starting to Realize He’s in a Movie
When we first met Roman Pearce back in 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tyrese Gibson’s character is under house arrest and working as a demolition driver in Barstow, California. Five movies later, he’s saved the world a handful of times, parachuted out of a military plane in a car, infiltrated a Russian secret facility in Moscow while fighting off a submarine, become a super-spy, and, as of F9, he’s been to space. It’s one hell of a trajectory for a guy whose qualifications include being good at driving and having dated some of the same women as Brian O’Conner in high school. In fact, if one were in Roman’s own position, looking back at his life of big budget exploits and his uncanny ability to pull off stunts that defy all known laws of science and walk away completely unscathed, one might start to think there may be powerful forces at play directing his life events in a pre-ordained fashion.
Early in F9, Roman’s sixth appearance in the Fast franchise, the character has a sudden, fourth-wall-breaking moment of self-awareness. This comes after a scene in which he’s driven an armored vehicle through a minefield and survived a hail of bullets. Having made it through his car getting blown up a half dozen times, Roman’s vehicle ends up wedged between two rocks right above one final mine. Roman makes it out fine. But he walks away a little rattled. Why, he wonders, has he survived? By all known logic he should be dead. Then comes the following interaction with Tej and Ramsey:
ROMAN: Y’all ever thought about how many wild missions we’ve been on? And we somehow always survive?
TEJ: Yeah, so far so good I guess.
RAMSEY: It’s just luck.
ROMAN: No no no see you’re not listening. Think about this. We’ve now been on insane missions around the world, doing what most would say is damn near impossible. And I ain’t got one single scar to show for it? I mean, look at my jacket. Those are bullet holes from 14 dudes trying to take my head clean off its shoulders. We’ve taken out cars, trains, tanks. I’m not even going to mention the submarine.
TEJ: And yet we’re still here.
TEJ: Ramsey, what happens when you test a theory over and over again only to come to the same result?
RAMSEY: A hypothesis becomes fact. But you’re not actually suggesting that—
TEJ: I don’t know but when the improbable happens again and again, that’s more than luck. Maybe we’re not so normal.
ROMAN: That’s what I’m saying. We are not normal!
RAMSEY: Ok, um, just to clarify, are you two maybe suggesting that we are what- invincible?
TEJ: Maybe…or maybe…you’re just a dumbass.
It’s a conversation that ends in some classic Fast and Furious friendly ball busting. But Roman was getting close to something there: “Y’all ever thought about how many wild missions we’ve been on? And we somehow always survive?” Roman is wrestling with a true existential question. We, the audience, of course, know the answer is that he’s in a big budget Hollywood franchise. Roman Pearce is a character in one of the highest grossing IPs in the world.
Roman wrestles with this idea throughout the film, and once again returns to this line of thought as he’s gazing down at planet Earth from orbit. Yes, Roman and Tej go to space by strapping a rocket to a Pontiac Fiero. There, Roman comes to the conclusion that they’re not invincible, they’re just … lucky.
Ughhh, my dude was so close to realizing the truth.
I hope this isn’t the end of Roman’s path toward becoming self-aware. If you think about it, the Fast franchise is one large exercise in suspension of disbelief. How far can the directors push us until these movies become too much? How far can they push these characters, too? Is it possible that this franchise can only truly end once all of these characters realize they are in a movie? In Fast 10, will Roman be the first to fully accept that he’s a character in a movie and work with director Justin Lin to put his companions through such ridiculous shit that they’re forced to realize that maybe the only reason they can dive out of sports cars going 100+ miles per hour is because this is an action film?
For a franchise that has done pretty much everything else so far, maybe this is the final frontier.
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.
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