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The Fast and the Furious

  the fast and the furious
"SuperSize this."
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker prepare for a drive-thru run-in.

2001, Universal
All Rights Reserved

"The Fast And The Furious" (IMDb listing) is a teenager's dream come true. A vivid look into the heart of the illegal L.A. street racing scene, "Furious" has copious amounts of fast cars, fast women, strapping male role models of cool, and a blaring soundtrack that any teen worth his hormones will want thumping out of his mom's Toyota this long, hot summer. Throw in a little girl-girl kissing and an ending that tosses away intelligence for brotherly honor, and the adolescent boys should be lining up for miles. For the rest of us that have made it through puberty, "Furious" is a tedious exercise in grand-theft-movie. Anyone who saw and adored 1991's "Point Break" (myself included) will have the overwhelming sense of deja vu with this scene-for-scene knock off.

FBI upstart Brian Spindler (Paul Walker, "The Skulls") is sent undercover into the secretive world of "10 Second" street racing with the help of his elder partner (Ted Levine, "Evolution"). The goal is to root out the drivers responsible for delivery truck heists that have been plaguing the local freeways. Brian meets Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, "Boiler Room"), a tough, brash driver with a criminal past. The two form a tight bond as they compete in the local drag races. The closer Brian gets to Dominic, the closer emotionally Brian gets to Dominic's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, "The Faculty"). Though falling in love with Mia wasn't the plan, Brian finds himself in over his head when a rival Asian gang (lead by Rick Yune, "Snow Falling On Cedars") begins to suspect Brian is more than the new white guy on the racing scene.

"The Fast And The Furious" is the kind of strip-mall movie theater, Saturday afternoon, Milk-Dud film they don't get around to making much anymore. The picture so completely submerses itself in the current popular culture of music, clothes, and relationships that I wouldn't be surprised if it was considered dated by the second week of August. And there is a charm in that. "Furious" is the sort of teen film that is so utterly in the now that you cannot help but fall under its dunce-cap charms. With its witless script and PG-13 neutering, "Furious" is hardly worth the $8. Yet, the demographic attention paid to teenage style and attention span could easily be mistaken for a passable time at the movies. I think that's what happened to me.

Directed with typical numb-skulled fortitude by Rob Cohen ("The Skulls," "Dragonheart"), "The Fast And The Furious" outruns its own stupidity only during the race presentations. Maybe the reason these scenes work so well is that Cohen doesn't have to deal with the cliche-ridden dialog for the short amount of time that is given to the races. Using computer assistance to sell the ten second races for more than two minutes of screen time, Cohen conjures up some pretty captivating images and sounds. Tragically, there just isn't enough racing in the film. You see, we have this weak plot that must be seen to its conclusion, so bye-bye good times. The climax turns out to be warmed-over "Smokey And The Bandit" complete with flipping cars and obvious stunt doubles. It's a lousy alternative to the fun that was had before, and had Cohen not misread his movie, he might have ditched the car stunts and just focused more intently on the racing itself.

"The Fast And The Furious" is a more high-tech "Rebel Without A Cause," this time without the character pathos, and in place of James Dean, we have Paul Walker. This dismal, Keanu-ish actor is flat-out dreadful in "Furious." His line readings are flat and his emotions are forced. The real travesty of the picture is watching Walker square off with the bubbling cauldron of method acting himself, Vin Diesel. It's like watching two brick walls go at it. Diesel and Walker bring the fun down a notch in "Furious," and they wreck the picture for all the other, better actors in the film.

I find it very hard to get excited over "The Fast And The Furious." It's a terribly lazy film without any (save for those few race scenes) new ideas. They've packed up all this mediocrity into a shiny new package, and I worry if audiences won't recognize just how much of a shaft they are receiving from the filmmakers until the time the end credits roll and it's too late to get their money back.

Filmfodder Grade: D+

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