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Movie Reviews

The Fast and the Furious  

Vin Diesel...............Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker..............Brian Spindler
Michelle Rodriguez.......Letty
Jordana Brewster.........Mia Toretto
Rick Yune................Johnny Tran

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Written by: Gary Scott Thompson

Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language

"The Fast and the Furious" manages to tread over both familiar and preposterous territory, but does so at such a high-energy, rapid pace that I'm almost willing to recommend it. Almost.

The appropriately cast Vin Diesel stars as Dominic Toretto, a master street racer who spends his days empowering high-performance racing cars with computer-controlled fuel injection systems that facilitate lightning speed with a simple push of a button. By night, he pilots his own speed machine through the strangely deserted streets of Los Angeles, leaving those foolhardy enough to race him in the dust. A fresh-faced young drifter named Brian (Paul Walker) arrives in L.A. and is immediately captivated by the adrenaline rush associated with street racing. Seeking acceptance and a modicum of respect, Brian challenges Dominic to a race. As it concludes, police arrive on the scene and in the confusion, Brian rescues Dominic from the law's long arm. A bond is immediately born, albeit one accompanied by suspicion.

Warning: some plot points will be revealed in this paragraph. Brian has a secret. He is actually an undercover cop investigating a string of recent tractor-trailer hijackings. The heists involve three Honda Civics that surround the truck - the passenger side window is shot out and the cab is infiltrated, all while at high speed. It would seem to make much more sense robbing the merchandise while the trucks aren't in motion, but questions of the sort cannot be asked here. Brian soon falls in love with Dominic's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). Not a wise move for an undercover cop, but it does make for better storytelling. The investigation becomes compromised as the friendship between the young cop and the mysterious racer strengthens.

With the string of mindless summer flicks being unleashed on a weekly basis now, critical disputations are being waged as to the difference between good "trash" and bad "trash". I'm not a well-schooled enough reviewer to distinguish the two, but I would rate "The Fast and the Furious" as mediocre trash. It's typical summer fare - loud, high energy, loud, silly, loud, contrived, and quite loud. To its credit, the movie doesn't pretend to be more than it is. Does that make it a good film, however? Ehhh, not necessarily. Yes, the premise is outrageously silly, but so was Kathryn Bigelow's similar but far more interesting "Point Break". "Furious" isn't quite as technically skilled. While "Break" took audiences for a ride on California waves, skydiving jumps, and bank hold-ups, this film is basically a loosely plotted string of racing sequences. Some are handled well, including a heist attempt gone awry, but it's nothing that hasn't been mastered already in movies like "The Road Warrior".

Vin Diesel continues to demonstrate his star potential as he did in "Boiler Room" and "Pitch Black". At this point, however, it is still potential. He looks at home here, but there is something distinctly fascinating about the man. I believe there are acting skills he hasn't tapped into yet, and I'm eager to see him accompanied by a much more challenging screenplay. Paul Walker ("The Skulls") is surprisingly effective in the Keanu Reeves-ish hero role. The movie offers up two easy-on-the-eyes fiery females as well. As the obligatory love interest, Jordana Brewster ("The Invisible Circus") isn't given a whole lot to do, but certainly looks good. Michelle Rodriguez ("Girlfight") brings her no-nonsense ferocity into the mix as Dominic's longtime girlfriend.

The director is Rob Cohen ("Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story", "Dragonheart", "Daylight") who admirably ventures into different genres although hasn't really mastered any. He injects the film with the necessary amount of high energy. Unfortunately, it doesn't hide the fact that the story just isn't very captivating.

Despite the movie's potential as a guilty pleasure, it's a near miss for me. There is a kind of "been there, done that" feel to it. Movies that don't aim very high can still be made with definitive skill, but "The Fast and the Furious" wears itself out. For me, the experience was exhausting but not exhilarating.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically Ill

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