Fast and the Furious (2001)

We’re not normal people.

Of course, if you’ve been to this site more than once chances are you’ve already noticed this fact. We like our music extreme, we like our artwork extreme, we like our girls extreme, and we like our cars extreme. Sure, we may not all drive classic muscle cars, but we all have an appreciation for vehicles that are closer to “art” than simply “transportation”. My love of the extreme, and especially extreme cars, is what lured me into the theater to see The Fast and the Furious.

I’m almost 28 years old, which means I turned 16 in 1989. My first three cars, in order, were a 1968 convertible Firebird, a 1979 5.0 Mustang, and a 1979 Formula Firebird with a small block 400. I was no street racer, but I did my share of burn outs, drag racing and, eventually, destroying all three of these cars (prompting my parents to foot the bill for my next car, a 1989 Yugo).

Unfortunately, this movie wasn’t written for me. It was written for people who are turning 16 now, not 12 years ago. Gone are the Camaros, the Mustangs, the Novas, the Chargers – they’ve been replaced by Hondas, Nissans, and Toyotas. Gone are the days of tuning an engine with wrenches and screwdrivers – they’ve been replaced with laptops, computer chips, and apparently lots and lots of NOS.

The plot of The Fast and the Furious has been done a million times – only this time, it’s with street racing. It’s the classic love triangle: Good guy falls in love with good girl who has a bad brother. The main conflict quickly becomes, “can good guy keep good girl and defeat bad guy?” I saw it in Point Blank, I saw it in Thrashin’ … hell, I’ve seen it a dozen times at least.

So, what do you want me to say about the movie? It was exactly what I had expected: A fairly shallow plot strung in between a bunch of street racing. There were a few surprises along the way; nothing that would stump Sherlock Holmes, mind you, but enough to keep me awake from scene to scene. The plot was good, but the filming was great. The race scenes really seemed to give you an inner look at some sort of “sub-culture” – if beefing up rice rockets and racing them around downtown Los Angeles is indeed a sub-culture.

The acting in this movie also wasn’t horrible. Somehow, that’s a compliment. Movies of this “ilk” usually capitalize on a market or a gimmick, and then pick up a bunch of second rate actors. While most of the actors in TF&TF are no names or up-and-comers at best, they all do a fairly good job of keeping at least one foot in reality. Paul Walker (Brian Spilner/O’Conner) would have made a decent teenage Anakin Skywalker. His role isn’t much harder hitting than his last few (Varsity Blues, Pleasantville, She’s All That) but he does a decent job. Vin Diesel (as Dominic Toretto) plays a perfect baddie. Diesel got his feet wet in Saving Private Ryan and Pitch Black, and with a starring role in Pitch Black 2 and XXX I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of him. Michelle Rodriguez plays Letty, the villian’s love interest. I hadn’t seen her before, but after this and her role in Resident Evil I’m sure we’ll be hearing her name thrown around quite a bit very soon. Jordana Brewster rounds out the top billing as Dominic’s sister. She was OK in The Faculty and she was OK in this. She’s … OK.

I’ve been working on this review for a couple of days now, and although the movie has kind of flushed through my system I’ve found myself looking up lots of performance parts prices for my Neon on the web the last couple of days and paying a lot more attention to the brightly-colored little cars zipping around town with their bolted on spoilers and hood scoupes. My personal theory about race cars is a lot like my personal theory about speakers – bigger is better. Still, the thought of a Honda Civic doing 150+ with two bottles of NOS wide open makes me grin.

Dominic Toretto, the main bad guy (or is he?) says during the movie, “I live life one quarter mile at a time.” Maybe not in the drag racing sense, but I can relate to that. Hell, we probably all can. But then again, we’re not normal people, are we?

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