Friday, May 31, 2013

#1,019. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Directed By: Rob Cohen

Starring: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez

Tag line: "Live life 1/4 mile at a time "

Trivia: There are over 15,000 individual sound effects in the first street race

Who'd have guessed that when The Fast and the Furious hit theaters in the summer of 2001, it would spawn an entire series? And with its most recent entry, 2013's Fast & Furious 6, raking in nearly $100 million at the U.S. Box Office its opening weekend, it's a safe bet #7 isn't far behind.

Sgt. Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop assigned to investigate a series of high-profile robberies, where thieves made off with entire truckloads of expensive cars. Believing the culprits are most likely part of the street racing scene, he befriends Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), an ex-con and the leader of a talented group of drivers, including Vince (Matt Schulze), Jesse (Chad Lindberg), and Dominic's girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who always cross the finish line first. Pressured by his superiors to crack the case as quickly as possible, O'Connor instead becomes romantically involved with Dominic's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), getting him in deeper than he ever intended.

So, what is it about The Fast and the Furious that struck a chord with movie audiences? Well, it’s not the dialogue, which, for the most part, is dreadful. When O'Connor enters his first race, he's a bit short on cash, so instead, he puts the pink slip for his modified Mitsubishi on the line. "But if I win", he says, "I take the cash and I take the respect", adding "To some people, that's more important". I'm sure these lines looked good on paper, but translated to the screen, they're beyond hokey.

No, what made The Fast and the Furious a multimillion dollar franchise was its high-energy race scenes, which are definitely exhilarating. In the first race, Cohen does more than follow the cars as they fly down the road; he takes us inside the "guts" of the vehicles as well (by way of some impressive CGI), showing what happens to each engine when the drivers hit speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. Yet, oddly enough, the movie offers a bit more than action and thrills. The Fast and the Furious also gives us a handful of interesting characters. Vin Diesel is strong as Toretto, a commanding presence when he's on-screen, and both Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster deliver fine performances as the women in Toretto's life.

While The Fast and the Furious is certainly no classic (aside from its often laughable dialogue, the "cop with conflicting loyalties" storyline is underdeveloped), it was a good starting point for a series that, as of today, has no end in sight.

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