The Fast and the Furious (2001) Movie Review

I have a soft spot for stupid movies, but what I can’t stand is a movie that is both stupid and generic. The Fast and the Furious is that kind of movie — it’s both stupid and generic, and those are two traits that I cannot forgive. What passes for a plot in Furious mines the Undercover Cop Infiltrates Tight-Knit Gang movie yet one more time. Anyone who has seen any episode of the TV show 21 Jump Street already knows the plot, but for those blissfully unaware, let me shed light on the going-ons of Furious. Brian (Paul Walker) is an up-and-coming cop who has gone undercover to infiltrate a gang of thieves that specializes in hi-jacking trucks. The gang also happens to be popular regulars of illegal street racing. Got it? Good.

How bad is Furious? Well, it’s pretty bad. In fact, the only good thing about the movie is the first 30 minutes, when the film focuses on the street-racing scene. My car IQ begins and ends right here: step on the gas pedal and the car goes, step on the break and the car stops. I am not a car person. I do not take my car to carwashes. I don’t pay people to wash my cars, I don’t do wax, and it’s been years since I’ve had someone vacuum my car’s interior.

All that being said, I was sucked into the movie’s street racing scene. I found myself wanting to know more about this nightlife. I wanted to understand the motivations behind 20-somethings who spend thousands of dollars to soup up a plain Japanese car into something approaching a jet fighter. I desired to know what these people’s lives are like when they’re not racing, and how each night’s racing affects them afterwards. Unfortunately, director Rob Cohen and his writers didn’t share my curiosity, and after the first 30 minutes, the street racing is all but forgotten until much later on.

The Fast and the Furious is meant to be an adrenaline junkie’s dream, and it nearly succeeds as that. The movie’s strongest points are its nighttime street racing scenes, but whenever the sun comes up and the truck hi-jacking plot shifts into focus, the movie loses steam as well as my interest. The characters are cardboard and the romance between Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster), the sister of the gang’s charismatic leader, Dominic (Vin Diesel), is as clich’ as they come.

In fact, there’s nothing about the movie that isn’t clich’-ridden. There is a subplot involving Dominic and his troubles with an Asian motorcycle gang, but why these two factions are so antagonistic toward each other is never explored or explained, and therefore the ending, which heavily involves the Asians, makes absolutely little sense. In fact, the movie’s entire Third Act is a jumbled mess, as if the 3 writers each had their own ways to end the movie, and instead of picking one, director Rob Cohen (“Dragon”) just decided to film them all and connect them into one big Third Act. There are actually four climactic sequences within the space of 30 minutes that could have been the sequence that ended the movie. Instead, one sequence is piled on top of another, so that the final result is confusing and disjointed.

The movie’s main star is Vin Diesel (“Pitch Black”) as Dominic. The man exudes charisma and confidence and is, oddly enough, the only one with the muscles — both figuratively and literally — to carry the movie. Paul Walker as Brian is hopelessly miscast. He comes off as a second-rate Keanu Reeves, playing the same character that Reeves had played in Point Break almost point-for-point. In fact, in a twist of irony, Walker has almost the identical mannerisms, speech pattern, and acting style of Reeves. Coincidence? Perhaps. Besides not looking alike, Walker and Reeves could be identical twins, and I dare their parents to tell the two men’s voices apart on the phone.

After sloshing through the gritty and nasty streets of L.A. with Training Day, watching The Fast and the Furious feels like drinking apple juice after a hard night’s hangover. As a movie, Furious is a hopeless failure. As a mindless entertainment covered from end to end with flashy modified cars and loud rap and techno beats, the movie entertains. After all, they don’t call movies like this “popcorn flicks” for no reason, you know.

Rob Cohen (director)
CAST: Paul Walker …. Brian O’Conner
Monica Tamayo …. Monica
Vin Diesel …. Dominic Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez …. Letty
Jordana Brewster …. Mia Toretto

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