The Fast and the Furious
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They've got the adrenaline rush and the mean machines, but most of all, they've got the extreme need for speed. On the turbo-charged streets of Los Angeles, every night is a championship race. With nitro-boosted fury, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), rules the road turning all his challengers into dust. He and his rival, Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) are the boldest, the baddest and the best. But now, there's new rage on the road. They know he's tough, they know he's fast, but what they don't know is that he's a speed demon detective (Paul Walker) with enough drive and determination to come out the winner. With intense full-throttle action, awesome high-speed stunts, and full-on pedal to the metal intensity, this fast and furious assault puts you in the driver's seat and dares you to exceed all limits.
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Paul Walker (who looks like a cross between C. Thomas Howell and Timothy Hutton, but maybe I'm dating myself here a bit) and Vin Diesel's relationship make what has been routinely slagged off as a "Donnie Brasco re-telling" a lot more interesting than just some dialogue in between stunt driving scenes (said stunt driving scenes in themselves are worth the price of ownership, however). An empathy for both characters develops without the viewer even being aware of it...the result is a series of plot twists and something of a surprise ending that leaves the door open for...yes, a sequel franchise. Couldn't you just see it coming?
Maybe the first decade of the 21st Century will compete with the 1970's for the right to be remembered as "The Golden Age of Car movies". There are enough homages to prior films (adequately covered in Rob Cohen's fantastic commentary track) to suggest that this movie was more than just an exploitation flick for motorheads...it comes across as a director's labor of love. Seriously.
Oh, and with a nod of respect I personally appreciated all that much more, the "baddest ride" in this video showroom of vehicular art IS a relic from the Age of Muscle Cars (and Steve McQueen's "Bullitt"), the manliest car ever built, the Dodge Charger R/T, including (if the gods are kind) the supercharged 426 hemi. Can I get an "AMEN" (or at least a "HOO-WAH")?
For the action, this film was mostly what one would expect. For the most part, the cars and the racing were pretty good. The 4 car street race was intense and the photography was excellent on that. On the other hand, some of the special effects were really poorly done. For example, if a car left the road (except for the last scene), it stopped so quickly and with so little damage that it was flagrantly OBVIOUS that the action was really going on at maybe 30 mph, not the high speeds consistent with the action/plot. This was so bad, it makes one wonder if they forgot to hire someone to keep an eye on continuity.
The other main criticism I had is aside from the first and last race scenes, all the other fast car scenes to me seemed far too similar and got rather boring, frankly.
On the other hand, I didn't expect to get ANY decent acting or character development out of this. Vin Diesel was a standout bright spot. Here you have a supposedly really bad, dangerous, criminal who is clearly spiritual, thoughtful, plays fair, and who only became a criminal because of a sudden life shattering event, and the all-too-human mistake he made in the wake of that event. Although he is now a career criminal in the wake of the tragedy and his punishment (and the severe limitation the consequences put on his life choices FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE), it is clear his victims suffer no permenant damage, aside from financial.
With the "rogue cop" tendencies of the protagonist, it left me thinking first, how easy it could be for ANY of us to become a "criminal" in a flash of emotion in a time of crisis to a horrible event, and second asking "who is TRULY the protagonist here?"
So to me, this movie reminded me of lot of the surprise I received in "Fight Club" expecting generic brand X action, and getting some actual CONTENT to think about as well.
Oh, by the way, if you're under 21, like hot cars and pretty girls - you'll certainly like this. Don't let all this "philosophy" scare you off! :)