12 April 2017

The Fast and the Furious: Fast Beginnings

The Fast and the Furious came out in the summer of 2001. I remember this fondly for many reasons. This was Vin Diesel's big break. He had a minor hit with the underrated Pitch Black the year before, but this put him on the map as an action hero. Paul Walker was coming off of two mid-level hits with his high school sports drama Varsity Blues and college fraternity thriller The Skulls. Like Diesel, Walker was thrust into the spotlight following the success of The Fast and the Furious.

That summer, I was working at the local theater. I remember staying late on Thursday for an employees’-only sneak. After watching the movie, all of us employees were ready to go out and street race. That weekend at the theater was hilarious. All the local kids drove their suped-up Hondas and Toyotas to the theater. Once they left, they would peel out and race each other out of the parking lot. Why was this hilarious? The police just sat out in the parking lot in unmarked cars waiting for these gearheads to do just that. I cannot imagine how many tickets were written that weekend within a two-mile radius of the theater.

Lastly, my fondness for the movie centers on the bootleg version of this film that all the students on my dorm floor had. It had no music. The entire soundtrack, songs and score, was nonexistent. This made for a hilarious viewing, as we sat around a fifteen-inch tube monitor. Some of the scenes were laughable without music. The bass in the trunk was thumping visually, but there was no bass sound. The characters were shouting over nothing. They were dancing to nothing. They were bobbing their heads to music only they could hear. Classic.

The Fast and the Furious opens with a semi-truck heist that has an excitement and awe-factor that none of the sequels have been able to recreate. All the robbers are wearing black masks, so you are not sure who they are. We are not even sure what they are stealing. We then cut to Brian O'Connor (Walker) red-lining his Eclipse before hitting the infamous NOS button boosting him up to over 140 mph. But, he is not satisfied, as he goes back to his job at an aftermarket car parts store. We then find out that he is LAPD working with the FBI to investigate the recent rash of semi-truck heists.

In the effort to get inside information about the semi-truck heists, Brian enters his Eclipse as collateral into a street race against the legendary Dom Toretto (Diesel) and his Mazda RX-7.  Brian loses. Cops raid the race. Everyone scatters. Dom is about to caught, but Brian saves the day. They accidentally run across Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) and his gang. They shoot the Eclipse and hit the NOS, blowing up the entire car.  This means that Brian owes Dom a 10-second car. Brian later shows up at Dom’s garage with a jalopy of what could be a sweet Toyota Supra. While getting buddy-buddy with Dom and his crew, Vince (Matt Schultze), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Jesse (Chad Lindberg), Brian finds evidence that Tran's crew is pulling off the heists. After the raid turns up nothing, Brian's loyalty is questioned because of his relationship with Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster).

A showdown is set when Dom's crew and Tran's crew show up to Race Wars. There, tricked-out cars drag race head-to-head legally. Confrontations and conflicts fill the short amount of time at Race Wars. Jesse from Dom's crew loses to Tran. Dom beats Tran's face in.  Brian watches a heated conversation between Mia and Dom which reveals that Dom’s crew is actually behind the semi-truck heists.  Dom's crew leaves for another heist. Brian and Mia go to try and stop them. They turn out to show up in time to save them. Brian blows his cover to everyone to save Vince of Dom's crew. Then, there is the finale drag race between the recently finished Supra and Dom's Dad's Charger. If you haven't seen this scene, why are you reading this article?

The Fast and the Furious is a well-paced action/adventure film directed by Rob Cohen (xXx, The Skulls) from a screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson based on a magazine article “Racer X”. That's right, a magazine article was the inspiration for this ludicrous franchise. Pun intended. I can say that this was the perfect way to spend 106 minutes.  As for how well does it stand the test of time?  I think that if you don’t have the nostalgic memories as I do, you will not be impressed with the bad acting, bad dialog, and two-minute “10-second” races.

Rating: 7/10

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