Paul Walker - Brian Spilner/O'Conner
Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez - Leticia "Letty" Ortiz.
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Rick Yune - Johnny Tran
Chad Lindberg - Jesse
Johnny Strong - Leon
Matt Schulze - Vince
Ted Levine - Tanner
Thom Barry - Bilkins
Genre - Action/Crime
Running Time - 107 Minutes
Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop, under the name of Brian Spilner, trying to infiltrate the street racing scene in Los Angeles in order to gain information on some stolen goods that has been happening on the roads and highways. He enters a street race, hoping to race against wanted fugitive, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), and gain his respect. Even though Brian loses the race, he saves Dom from being arrested by police. Dom begins to trust Brian, bringing him onto his crew that includes his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his younger sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). While Dom is evading police, trying to win more money, and keep out of trouble where it concerns Johnny Tran (Rick Yune), Brian begins to realize that Dom may be the one behind the stolen goods. While he's meant to bring Dom and his crew to justice, Brian is torn between friendship and his badge.
- Vin Diesel. It's hard to believe that THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS has created a summer blockbuster franchise 12 years ago - one that has no end at the moment. I think it's more unbelievable that a vapid film about street racing could create so many sequels and a spinoff of sorts. But the franchise definitely has its fanbase [especially after the massive success of 2011's FAST FIVE] and I'm sure it will continue to grow with FAST AND FURIOUS 6 this May.
I think one of the reasons why this franchise, and this film in particular, has done so well is because of one Mr. Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto. He was only a minor star due to his roles in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, BOILER ROOM, the animated THE IRON GIANT, and the cult classic PITCH BLACK. But THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS put Diesel on the map and it's no mystery why - the guy oozes charisma and coolness. His muscular size and brooding looks definitely grab your attention visually. His baritone voice grabs your attention aurally. And he's a pretty decent actor too who can do dramatic stuff, as well as the necessary action roles. Funny enough, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was meant to showcase Paul Walker into making him a huge Hollywood star. Instead, Diesel took the spotlight away from Walker, stealing every scene in the film - especially when the two are on screen together.
The rest of the cast fills their roles fine, in my opinion. I'll get into the acting in a bit, but Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Rick Yune, and etc. play their stereotypical roles to the best of their abilities. But Diesel is the star here and this is his film, no matter how hard Walker tries to make it his.
- Direction of the action. Rob Cohen, director of DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, THE SKULLS, xXx, and DAYLIGHT, definitely gives THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS a visual style that's not only pleasing to the eye, but fun to watch as well. In fact, Cohen tends to overdo the action by using CGI to show us whenever someone uses NOS, or the car malfunctions. Are these moments necessary, at least more than once? No, but I have a good chuckle at these moments. Also, whenever someone is driving fast, we see the background get blurred while the actor is in complete focus [which I actually like quite a lot]. And the action scenes are really good here. The street races are fun, but the real highlights happen towards the end of the film. In particular, the scene where a tractor-trailer is about to be the victim of theft, not realizing the angry driver of this tractor-trailer has a shotgun, is fantastic. Lots of tension. Lots of suspense. The stunt work is great as well. The editing, the framing, the cinematography - all of it works here. And I believe most were done practically without the help of CGI [although I'm sure some computers helped in these scenes].
Cohen also uses slow motion, montages, and the environment of his settings really well. And for a 107 minute film, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS definitely lives up to its name with its quick pace. Even during the slower, more dialogue driven scenes, the film moves very fast and never wears out its welcome. I think the visual presentation really made THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS stand out from other films like it at the time, which is probably why it helped create five sequels so far, while TORQUE and DRIVEN have yet to create one.
- It knows what it is. I think for anyone who has seen the film, you know THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is a pretty vapid and dumb flick that relies on style over substance. And that's why so many of us like this film - it knows that its dumb and just goes with the flow to provide entertainment. It's a 50s drive-in/B-movie made for a young modern audience. It has good looking people, fast cars, very good action, and hip-hop music that sets the tone for much of the movie. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS doesn't want its audience to think and see the plot holes and inconsistencies the film blatantly has. It just wants us to have fun with its exciting style rather than dwell on its lack of substance. It never tries to insult one's intelligence, which makes it okay in my book.
- Lack of depth. While THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS isn't a film based on substance, it's probably pointless to talk about the film's lack of plot or originality. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is "POINT BREAK with fast cars". Keanu Reeves has been replaced by Paul Walker. Patrick Swayze has been replaced by Vin Diesel. Lori Petty has been replaced by Jordana Brewster. Both films follow the same template - "Undercover cop infiltrates a crew of criminal thieves, becomes best friends with the leader, falls for the leader's sister, and questions whether to choose the law or loyalty to his new friends." I'm not saying the template doesn't work well for THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, because there wouldn't be a franchise if it didn't. But it makes the comparison to POINT BREAK so much without trying that it looks inferior to a much better action film. The thing is that POINT BREAK had a stronger script, more defined characters and relationships, and better acting. So while I enjoy THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, it just makes me want to see POINT BREAK more.
This could have been helped if the script was slightly different other than using cars instead of surfing. The dialogue is extremely generic. In fact, it's so by-the-numbers that I'm honestly surprised it took FOUR PEOPLE to write it. Sure, I'm glad they did their research on street racing and fuel injectors, but the script could have used more work. Especially when it came to character development because most of these characters are extremely one-note. Brian's choice could have been more believable if we knew more about him. Why would he risk losing his job as a cop just to be part of supposed criminals? There's mention that he had a criminal record [which I'm not sure was doctored for his undercover work], but there's not much to go on other than that. Sure, Dom trusts Brian really quickly, even though this guy could add danger to a mostly calm life outside of street racing. Brian and Mia get together pretty easily, and their relationship has no depth to it other than both are pretty looking and they want to mate. The only character who has any depth really is Jesse, who is a whiz at math and physics. He struggles with his ADD and he tries his hardest to fit into the crew by trying to race, which leads to his downfall. And the only reason Dom has any depth is because Vin Diesel pours depth into the character through his performance, making the audience feel sympathy towards him somewhat.
Look, some films are not made to be thought provoking and character driven. I get that. But if this film was one-hundred percent action, I'd be more okay with that. But the middle portion is dramatic stuff with people we don't really know much about. And if info is given, it's through the bad art of expository dialogue. A little something in story and character development could have helped the film more. I'm glad we got some through each sequel, but it could have been done in a single film as well.
- Not the greatest acting. I'm only putting this here because, while it adds to the film's cheesiness, I don't think the actors were trying to be unexceptional. I don't really blame them for much of this anyway since the script doesn't allow most of them to do anything outside of their stereotypes. I mean, how many times can Michelle Rodriguez play the badass bitch? At least she does it well. Why give the main character role to Paul Walker, who is pretty bland in this film and gets overshadowed by Vin Diesel in every scene? Jordana Brewster is a beautiful woman, but she doesn't get much to do really. And I can really go on here. This became somewhat problematic when 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS was released since it centered around Paul Walker instead of Vin Diesel. But I'll get to that film shortly. But the acting was just "there" for me, but this film isn't about the high quality thespian work, now is it?
THE FINAL HOWL
Trying to review THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is like trying to teach psychology to Amanda Bynes - it's pointless. The film is nothing but fast cars, eye candy for both sexes, and violence here and there in terms of explosions and gunplay. Nothing more, nothing less. It's dumb and empty, but the film already knows that it is - focusing more on the visual presentation and pacing rather than the actual story itself. It's popcorn entertainment that's recommended if you're willing to leave the brain at the door. I get why some people dislike this film and the rest of the franchise, but I find it a fun, harmless watch.