The Fast and the Furious (1954)
The Fast and the Furious, a car culture film that revolves around street racing, rival Asian gang members on crotch rockets and overly complex semi-hijackings, skips the schmaltz and cuts right to the chase.
This turbo-charged film centers on street racing and the people who live for it. Dominic Toretto (the aptly named Vin Diesel) is one of them, rebuilding high performance racecars by day and racing by night. Since the money he makes for winning a race (up to $10,000) barely covers his overhead costs, Toretto and his band of staunch followers supplement their incomes by hijacking electronics-filled 18-wheelers. The FBI, which has narrowed down the suspects to either Toretto or his arch rival Johnny Tran (Rick Yune), sends in undercover officer Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) to get the evidence they need and arrest the right guy. O'Connor gets a job at a local high-end auto supply store and soon infiltrates Toretto's gang, despite repeated warnings from its leader's steadfast cronies. He wins Toretto's respect, and after predictably falling for his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), begins to question his loyalties. It's a stale story line with all the typical elements, but who cares? In The Fast and the Furious, the story is a mere formality.
Most of the actors in this film have been typecast, but for once that's not a limiting thing. It almost seems as though Diesel (Boiler Room, Pitch Black) was born to play commandeering ringleader Dominic Toretto. With his gravelly, baritone voice and menacing screen presence, he dominates every scene he is in. Unfortunately, the script calls for him to utter obvious lines like, ''You break her heart, I'll break your neck.'' Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) is in her element as his cagey girlfriend but could almost be mistaken for a rottweiler on a leash. She scowls and glares over the rim of her shades one too many times, but demonstrates once again that she can pack a mean punch. There is a small but surprisingly funny performance by Chad Lindberg as Jesse, the mechanical genius whose ADD drove him to a life of crime. But Walker (The Skulls) is as bland as his white-bread character O'Connor, and the object of his affection, Mia, (Brewster, The Invisible Circus) is equally unimpressive. But as with the story, The Fast and the Furious is not about the acting.
Furious makes up for what it lacks intellectually with pure and unadulterated action. The overly choreographed scenes of cars driving in V-formations are eclipsed by the cars themselves, which are the highlight of the film. The race sequences alone will practically leave you feeling compressed, and the souped-up Nissans, Hondas and Toyotas will make this film an instant cult classic within the car culture. Craig Lieberman, one of the import car consultants on the film, even provided his own 1994 Toyota Supra--complete with Greddy Turbo and NOS nitrous upgrades, three TV screens, VCR, Sony Play Station, 19'' Dazz wheels and a $7,000 custom paint job. If the car didn't actually belong to a real person, it might be too decadent to be believed. All in all, Furious is a dizzying frenzy of noise and speed that serves up what films like Gone in 60 Seconds and Driven promise but never come close to delivering. Despite its screeching drag races and hair-raising crashes, Furious probably won't appeal to the masses, but expect it to fly when it gets released on DVD.
Furious gets high marks for being so absolutely relentless in the action department you may forget it even has a story. But remember, it's marketed as a drag racing flick, and drag racing is exactly what you get.