Fast cars, scantily clad women, bare-knuckle brawls, and guns, guns, guns!
What more could be expected from a guilty pleasure-ridden American popcorn movie like The Fast and the Furious. Nothing of substance or intelligence is ever really expected from a summer movie, much less when that movie bears a title akin to a bad porno flick. The Fast and the Furious was exactly how I felt leaving the theater: Hightailing it back home, furious at how quickly the movie fell apart. I mean, how the hell could you screw up something as slam-dunk-awesome as souped-up performance cars amidst the illegal street racing subculture of the L.A. Basin?
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is the main bad-ass dude of L.A.'s illegal street racing circuit. He runs a performance car tune-up shop, along with his colorful team of misfits and mechanical geniuses. But is he the guy responsible for the recent hijackings of big-rigs full of hi-fi electronics?
Undercover cop Brian Spindler (Paul "Don't call me Keanu" Walker) saunters in to crack the case, showing up in a green Eclipse with enough nitrous to blow up a city block. His job is to infiltrate Dominic's crew and find out who's pulling the hijacking jobs before his stereotypical commanding officer eats up too much of his screen time. During his investigation, Brian is taken under the wing of Dominic and into the underground world of illegal street racing, where he learns how to avoid potholes and ignore plot holes.
Coo as Brian falls in love with Dominic's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster)! Watch as Brian leaps so gracefully out of the way of ill-tempered Asian gangs with automatic weapons! Feel the thrill when Brian learns how to leave a Ferrari in the dust! And ultimately, try to hold back the tears as Brian begins to question his loyalty to the badge versus the respect and honor of his newfound "racing family." It's Point Break all over again.
The first twenty minutes of The Fast and the Furious are a real treat. I even thought that hack director Rob Cohen (an old Miami Vice director who was responsible for such classics as Daylight and The Skulls) could have pulled this off with sweeping cameras angles and tight, tight editing. All Cohen needed to do was keep the action hot and heavy with racecars flying by, chicks making out in hallways, and fists flying. Sadly, the studio wanted a PG-13 rating for the film in order to get the kiddies in and ultimately homogenizes the movie into a regurgitated episode from Starsky and Hutch. A horrendous ending doesn't help.
Even Vin Diesel, a strong actor with great turns in such films as Pitch Black and Boiler Room, spends half the movie trying to create a sympathetic character while frantically looking for a way out of the film. Which he doesn't find until the credits roll... See it or don't, but remember one thing either way: a Honda Civic can't slide under a big-rig trailer without bodily harm coming to all involved.
The DVD's extras -- including a commentary track from Cohen and various documentaries and deleted scenes -- are hit and miss, but the multi-angle feature (showcasing the final car crash) is worth watching. Cohen's commentary is also intriguing, and raises the bar and what ought to be a run-of-the-mill action film. His grasp of film history (and his respect for it) makes you respect the movie far more than you might on first viewing.
On the "Tricked Out" DVD, Paul Walker returns in a short film that bridges the gap between Fast and 2 Fast. Other extras like a multi-camera angle feature and deleted scenes round out the disc.
Fast car makes ya wanna jump!