Review: The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Directed by: Rob Cohen | 102 minutes | action, crime, thriller | Actors: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine, Ja RUle, Vyto Ruginis, Thom Barry, Stanton Rutledge, Noel Gugliemi, RJ De Vera, Beau Holden, Reggie Lee , Rob Cohen

In 2001 a “sleeper hit” swept through the cinemas that was anything but sleepy. Screeching engines, flashing nitrous oxide injections, shiny cars with neon colors and lighting under the body. And of course you can’t do without the drivers with attitude and, last but not least, the sexy-dressed, “tight on the tires” babes who, just like the cars themselves, provided the necessary eye candy. A winning combination, as it turned out. The film, inspired by a short article about street racing culture called ‘Racer X’, gave this culture a big boost. In the Netherlands, too, more and more street racers and events appeared. Its success at the box office led to the production of, for the time being, two other ‘Furious’ films, culminating in the part subtitled ‘Tokyo Drift’; and it is not inconceivable that more will follow. The great novelty of the first ‘The Fast and the Furious’ is the glimpse into this exciting new subculture, previously unseen on film, while the near-physical experience of watching the film is its greatest cinematic appeal. The wonderful surround sound mix, which makes you feel in the (home) cinema as if you are in the “pimped” crackers yourself, and the visual speed effects such as blurs and accelerations of the environments during the races, the fire-breathing exhausts, shots from inside the engine , and the cameras shaking slightly by the cars speeding by, make the film a real adrenaline rush.

The story is unremarkable: it is the standard story of a cop who goes undercover and becomes too involved with the people within the culture or organization that he ultimately has to arrest. It is a well-known phenomenon in “real” life and in films we saw it happen in the strong ‘Donnie Brasco’, in which Johnny Depp played the title role and built a close friendship with the sympathetic mafioso Lefty, played by Al Pacino. . But “The Fast and the Furious” has even more in common with Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break,” in which the organization in question also features a youth culture centered on speed and stunts, and in which the young cop, played by Keanu Reeves, also falls in love. on the leader’s sister (Patrick Swayze), with all the complications that entails. The only difference is that ‘The Fast and the Furious’ features car racers and ‘Point Break’ features wave surfers and paratroopers. Furthermore, the stories can practically be placed on top of each other. But even if the story isn’t original, it’s executed reasonably well and forms a good dramatic basis that draws the viewer into the characters and their situations. The group dynamics and history of Dominic Toretto’s gang come out surprisingly well. We get a good picture of this family that has been formed from an early age under Dominic’s leadership. On the one hand through some basic history about the individual characters or group as a whole that we get from the person in question or Mia (Brewster), and on the other hand through their mutual views and group behavior. A nice scene in this regard is the one during the joint barbecue, when Jesse (Chad Lindberg), who has concentration problems (ADD), has to pray for being the first to grab a piece of chicken. He thanks the Lord, among other things, for the direct injection of nitrous oxide and valve springs, on which everyone has to smile and say “amen”.

Main character Brian O’Conner is played by Paul Walker, a blond hunk with surfer looks, who has little more to offer than his blue eyes and radiant smile. His character also contains little background or development. Vin Diesel and his female co-stars Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez are more impressive. Brewster, known from ‘The Faculty’ and the soap opera ‘As the World Turns’, is a beautiful object of love for Walker, but also knows how to hold her own, both behind the wheel of a car and on a relational level. A scene that shows her feisty character is the one in which she beats the clumsy Vince, who has had a crush on her for ages, by asking Brian in front of him to the restaurant Vince wanted to take her to. She’s an intelligent Mediterranean beauty and thankfully not your standard empty-headed piece of jewelry for our hero. Michelle Rodriguez, who here plays Letty, Diesel’s sweetheart, has the other strong female role in the film, just like she had in her breakthrough film ‘Girlfight’. She is a tough chick and really “one of the guys”; in racing competitions, her male opponents often lose out. Dominic (Diesel) is actually still taking shape through his (tragic) history and Diesel, with his imposing appearance and rugged charm, is the perfect choice for this leader with a dangerous edge. His presence and the reasonable attention to the characters and their group life in this film are clearly missed in the ‘Fast and the Furious’ sequels.

It’s nice to see what it’s like during and before the street races. Seemingly without any explicit contact with each other, the racers manage to find each other at the right time and location. From one moment to the next a stretch of the street is filled with encrypted and embellished cars. The cars are parked in an orderly fashion, or rather: displayed, so that they can be admired or checked by the competitors or other attendees. In addition to the cars, the scantily clad women are also an essential part of the roadscape, and their bodies, like the engines in the cars, are carefully inspected. Before the race begins, we briefly review the unique features of each of the four cars lined up behind the starting line. Dom presses a button and we see his neon-colored stereo system turn on, with woofers vibrating violently through the bass. And we see the drive: Brian has installed two nitrous oxide tanks and controls them digitally via a laptop on the seat next to him; while Dom does it by feel and in advance only opens his gas bottle, which is hidden in a compartment between the two front seats. And a third participant is just playing a racing game in his car, before the real work begins.

‘The Fast and the Furious’ is, if you’re interested in the subculture covered here, as much a “guilty pleasure” as a skillfully executed b-movie. The present cheesy dialogue and the sometimes wooden playing just belong within this simple universe, and do not detract from the viewing experience. From a narrative point of view, the drama in the undercover situation could have been brought to a head rather than letting Johnny Trans (Rick Yune’s) biker gang become the main plot point and danger, but the whole atmosphere of the movie is so irresistibly hip – aided by the “fat” soundtrack interspersed with hip hop, club, Spanish crossover, hard rock, and funk – that things like plot, believability, and acting can take their place in the proverbial back seat without much objection. ‘The Fast and the Furious’ may have little solid content like the gas tanks in the monstrously fast cars, but the ride is exhilarating. Fast and furious, no doubt.

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