The Fast And The Furious

The Fast And The Furious concerns itself with the sub culture of the street racers. They young people tweak out cars to move at speeds far beyond normal

There are some films that will never make the AFI top lists. Still, we enjoy them for what they are, guilty pleasures. Many filmmakers have forgotten than movies can be serious and address issues but they also serve to entertain. The Fast and the Furious is such a film. Street racing is hardly a major social issue but watching fast cars speeding down the street have always been fun to watch. The Fast And The Furious promises a joy ride and delivers. It is refreshing to see a film that doesn’t have illusions of being more than just entertainment.

The Fast And The Furious concerns itself with the sub culture of the street racers. The young people tweak out cars to move at speeds far beyond normal. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is the king of the street racers. His nitrous super charged vehicle blows past the other racers like they were standing still. When not racing he runs a bar with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). A regular at the bar is Brian (Paul Walker), an unassuming type that dreams of racing himself. He is also infatuated with Mia and resists the constant persecution at the hands of Toretto’s crew. Of course things change when Brian saves Toretto from the cops and gains a begrudging respect. Unknown to all Brian is an undercover police officer. His assignment is to route out the gang beyond a string of 18-wheeler thefts. This vicious gang surrounds the truck with several Hondas and shoots out the windows, and then uses a cable to enter the truck’s cab. Even as a middle aged honest citizen I can think of many safer and more efficient ways to steal appliances from somebody. Unlike many recent action films, The Fast And The Furious does pay attention to character development. Many compare it to the lamentable ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’ which, although it had a better know cast did not measure up to the bar that is set here. There is enough expository material provided to allow the audience to get to know the characters and care about their plights.

I have noticed that many reviews of The Fast And The Furious really come down hard on it. I don’t feel this is justified in this case. Many reviewers use classic films or those movies highlighted in film school as the touchstone for their opinions. Films should be judged by what is out there, other films in the same genre. When I applied this to Fast and Furious it comes out better than many of the misdirected films forced upon the public, accept the fact that you don’t have to think about or analyze every scene of every film. Sit back for once and just take a break from reality.

There may be a few faces that you may recognize in The Fast And The Furious. Diesel was excellent in Pitch Black as the psycho killer. Here he is an almost existential mentor of the street racers. ‘I live my life ten seconds at a time’, is his mantra. His physical presence on screen is formidable. This is an actor to watch as he gains exposure and is offered increasing substantial roles. The young Latina actress Michelle Rodriguez plays one of the hijackers. She brought a great deal of realism and power to the role of a female boxer in Girl Fighter. Here, she is a strong, self-reliant young woman on the wrong side of the tracks. Here is another actor that is destined for much more noticeable featured roles. Her talent is undeniable and should take her far. It is refreshing to see an actress capable of moving past the stereotypical roles, she should be offered more mainstream parts.

Director Rob Cohen knows his way around the action genre. Among his previous works are Daylight and Dragonheart. His style of direction is well suited for this type of film. The pacing is fast but not at the expense of expository material needed to keep you from going for popcorn between the special effects shots. He lights the scenes to create a stark realism that helps the audience feel a part of the action. The framing of the scenes will lose a lot when translated to cable. You really have to take the whole scene in to full appreciate the merit of Cohen’s work. As with Daylight he has the characters drawn to each other leading to the climax of the film. Cohen’s work here reminds me of the classic ‘Grand Theft Auto’, Ron Howard’s freshmen full scale film. Fast has the same energy and (no pun intended) drive. Cohen pays homage to the films I watched in my all too distant youth where we didn’t care about everything making sense, we just wanted a good time.

The disc is absolutely incredible. The studio packed The Fast And The Furious with enough features to span a couple of evenings of viewing. There is a tie in to a game called Street Challenge where you get to play a sample; a feature length commentary and deleted scenes with optional commentary; an interesting featurette about how the movie was edited for the MPAA and an eight-viewpoint look at one of the special effect scenes. There are also DVD ROM links and, of course a making of featurette. The video is crisp, clear and without any compression artifact. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. Both are excellent but the DTS really rocks. It has a much fuller back fill to the sound field literally enfolding you in the action. The Fast And The Furious is NOT a film for late at night. The sub woofer alone will either bring the neighbors over to check out your system or the police for your disturbing the peace arrest. Don’t see The Fast And The Furious when you are in a pensive mood, wait until you have some friends over, order a pizza, a couple of beers and sit back to enjoy a real ride.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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