Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Fast and the Furious (2001) Review

The Fast and The Furious
I live my life a movie at a time

I confess that I forgot to place The Fast and The Furious anywhere on my previous list of so-called “guilty pleasures”. You know, the movies that you can watch with your friends, kick back, and relax without having to worry about it being a class A work of art. The kind of B-movies that permeated the 70’s and 80’s and would cause people to flock to the theaters so they could watch the gleeful mayhem, cheese, and simple minded entertainment. Those kinds of movies are a lost art, because with today’s overly cynical society we seem to treat every new piece of cinema as if it must be a success on all fronts and has to be more than just a few hours of fun. Even the movies that you would think would only have the goal of entertaining the audience attempt to strive for something more than it should be. The Fast and The Furious does not attempt to go beyond what is expected, which is both a blessing and an unfortunate mark against it.

Plot Synopsis: Brian O’Conner is the new kid on the block in the underground street racing leagues. Cocky enough to believe that he can win with just the right equipment, Brian enters his first race with Dominic Toretto, the supposed kingpin of the leagues, as one of his opponents. Shortly after losing the race to Dominic, the cops show up and everyone splits up. When it seems that Dom is about to be caught, Brian shows up to save his skin. As a show of appreciation, Dom allows Brian to join his band of friends and the two gain a mutual understanding of each other. But Brian isn’t all he seems, and we learn that he is an undercover cop who is doing this so that he can get close to Dom and then arrest him.


I struggled there just to get that synopsis to sound like a legitimate plot. I know you’re thinking, “Wait, this movie is all about the races, who cares about plot?” Well, I certainly agree with you. The movie's emphasis is on the race scenes and I have no problem with that mindset. My issue is that the story doesn’t flow from scene to scene, rather, it jumps around in a series of connect the dots. This gives the overall movie a kind of still feel, as the scenes try to increase the tension and suspense but aren’t followed up on afterwards. This is especially true of the ending, where we have reason to believe that soon the shit's going to hit the fan and everyone is going to be knee deep in cops chasing them. But that never comes; instead it is replaced by a minor helping of revenge, a slightly forced final race, and then it ends.

I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself though. You came to see some races right? Well, you will get your money’s worth by the time the movies over. Drag races, street races, vehicular hijackings, it is all here. And with the exception of the opening drag race, all of the chases appear to have been filmed with little or no CGI assistance, upping the intensity and danger. Some of the stunts during the final half hour were particularly heart stopping and memorable (Letty’s maneuver under the truck and Dom’s mid air twister). Director Rob Cohen even throws in a few fistfights and gunfights in between the races to keep things feeling fresh.

And yes, I know the acting isn’t the main attraction either, but a few of the performances are worth noting, for better or worse. Lets get the bad out of the way first; Paul Walker is one of the stiffest actors working in Hollywood today. He is so lifeless and boring as Brian that the movie (even this movie) would’ve collapsed if everything rested on his shoulders. Thankfully though, Vin Diesel as Dominic compliments him. Diesel is everything that Walker is not, commanding, charismatic, and a presence. It is too bad he didn’t have the same level of success after this movie, as his role here provided a good springboard for a possible career. The two women in the movie, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, are kind of wasted and given little to do. Michelle, as Dom’s girlfriend Letty, is mostly background scenery only appears at the most necessary situations and Jordana, as Dom’s sister and Brian’s love interest, is time wasting filler. Her and Brian’s relationship is so underdeveloped and edited back that it might as well have been cut entirely.

But despite my complaints, if you’re looking for a fun time waster and a good action movie to watch, then go see The Fast and The Furious.


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