REVIEW: The Fast and the Furious [2001]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 106 minutes | Release Date: June 22nd, 2001 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Rob Cohen
Writer(s): Gary Scott Thompson and Erik Bergquist and David Ayer / Gary Scott Thompson (story) /
Ken Li (article “Racer X”)

“I smell skanks”

Ah, The Fast and the Furious, the film that launched the careers of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and, for all intents and purposes, Michelle Rodriguez, (yes she starred in Girlfight previously). This foursome was so hot after this movie that some of them couldn’t demean themselves by starring in the sequel. Poor them as, just a short eight years later, they all jumped at the opportunity to reunite with fast cars in the fourth installment. Oh how the mighty fall, especially when they weren’t too mighty in the first place. I had my own preconceptions about this popcorn flick, virtually making me never want to take a chance on it at all. I thought the acting would be amateurish and campy, the story ludicrously absurd, and the cheese factor too high to overcome. Well, after finally sitting down to check it out I realized that I was clairvoyant. I wanted to at least have fun, and for a couple moments I did, but overall this Rob Cohen disaster is a throwaway that only shows how influential teenage boys are in the Hollywood spectrum. How else could we have three theatrically released sequels to what could be a made-for-tv movie at best?

I see the similarities to Point Break, as my friend told me existed. It even goes to the point where if I closed my eyes I could have believed Paul Walker was Keanu Reeves. Where this film goes wrong, though, is by having Brewster’s character involved, taking Walker’s love away from Diesel. What works so well in the before-mentioned Kathryn Bigelow film is that there is more than just allusions to a man-crush between Reeves and Patrick Swayze. That dynamic doesn’t quite exist here. Walker’s Spilner/O’Connor may respect Diesel’s Toretto, but he never idolizes the man. He sees a misguided soul that watched as his father burned to death on the racetrack. He sees a man who is nothing without his sister and racing team—his own makeshift family. Whether it is Toretto who is behind the truck-jacking or not, Walker is only staying close to find out, and get with Brewster’s Mia of course.

Speaking of the truck-jacking, is it just me or is that opening scene completely out-of-place? The film begins with four Hondas harassing a trucker, taking the driver out and, I guess, stealing the shipment. The cut is so abrupt that you never do find out what they do with the cargo, if anything. In fact, having the next scene in daylight with Walker, I thought maybe he was involved already, waiting for the criminals to meet up with him. Instead, he just floors his car, swears, and is all of a sudden at Mia’s diner. It is so discombobulating that I seriously wanted to just turn it off. Only when Walker goes back to work at Harry’s do we find out why he swore driving, and it’s even longer until we find out where the trucks come into play. But this isn’t trying to win awards for storytelling, it’s just doing its best to entertain and titillate. Unfortunately, it did very little of either.

The acting is pretty horrid across the board with Rodriguez probably the best of the four in a limited role. I didn’t mind Diesel too much, the guy has charisma, but Walker’s Keanu-speak was distracting because I don’t remember him ever talking like that in other films. And when the cast is rounded off by stilted delivery from Rick Yune, Ja Rule, and Matt Schulze—the moment when Brewster asks Walker out and Schulze elbows the wall in anger made me laugh—you know you shouldn’t be expecting very much else. Although, Chad Lindberg, as the whiz-kid engine technician, showed a lot of promise. I guess even the most asinine of films has a diamond in the rough somewhere.

If anyone reading this has wanted to see it, don’t let me stop you. I’m the first to admit that I have never seen the appeal of cars, either in their speed or in their look. The Fast and the Furious is all about the cars, so it had a pretty large strike against it from the beginning. I also don’t particularly care for action films devoid of a strong story. That said, however, I had a fun time with the trucker’s revenge sequence at the end while watching Diesel attempt to save Schulze. It all kind of gets ruined with Vin’s “anger” afterwards and his blind rage for payback against Yune’s Johnny Tran, but at least one high-octane moment kept my interest.

It’s a good thing too because the ending is as abrupt as the start, answering all questions about where our two leads’ relationship will go with wordless looks and nods. These two understand each other; they are kindred spirits who have opened their souls. One is a hardened criminal and the other an undercover cop, both with the streets to unite them. No loose ends are sealed and the fate of many is left unanswered. I’d love to see how Walker explains who was stealing the electronic equipment to his superiors. The filmmakers probably never thought a sequel would be imagined and felt pretending it didn’t matter would be enough.

[1] Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in Universal’s The Fast and The Furious – 2001
[2] Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster in Universal’s The Fast and The Furious – 2001

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