Friday, June 3, 2011

"The Fast and the Furious" (2001)

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez
Written by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by Rob Cohen
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 106 minutes

The Fast and the Furious [Blu-ray]There was a time, back in 2001, when I flat-out hated this movie.  Walking out of the theatre, I expressed my disappointment, to which my friend Brendan replied, "But the carrrrrrs, man!"  It's true; "The Fast and the Furious" is not a film with deep characterization or even a complex plot.  But on multiple viewings, what it does end up having is a lot of fun.

Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop investigating a series of tractor trailer truck heists.  To do so, he's infiltrated the world of illegal street racing, hooking up with a crew run by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel).  While his handlers are convinced that Dom's the man behind the heists, Brian isn't sure.  He thinks the thefts are the work of an Asian gang led by Johnny Tran (Rick Yune), who have a past beef with Dom. 

Brina also begins to fall for Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), causing problems with Dom's jealous friend Vince (Matt Schulze).  As Brian gets deeper and deeper into Dom's world, he begins to question his loyalties - is it to the police, and his mission, or to Dom and his friends?

 It took years, and lots of times catching bits and pieces of "The Fast and the Furious" on TV to really become a fan.  The increasingly enjoyable sequels haven't hurt, either.  The story and characters are simple, but there's enough badassery and action to keep things moving along.  Cool cars and thumping music are the fuel for this machine.

The film's sequences of vehicular mayhem are excellently staged, with a minimum of CGI special effects (something that would change greatly in the later films).  The two truck heist sequences are definite highlights, especially the second heist which goes spectacularly wrong.  Also cool are the street races, which even though they're basically just going in a straight line, have a great sense of speed to them.  Throw in a couple fist and gunfights and a chase here or there, and "The Fast and the Furious" has got just enough action to keep things revving.

At this point, with four more sequels under the franchise's belt, this original film feels tame by comparison.  This is balanced by the fact that the action sequences feel much more real.  The stunts and carnage aren't loaded with obvious CGI, so while they're perhaps a bit less ambitious, they're more grounded and visually impressive.

So, sure, "The Fast and the Furious" is essentially a remake of "Point Break" with cars instead of surfboards and skydiving, but it's all impressively made and a lot of fun.

See Also
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast Five