Action Movie Friday: The Fast and The Furious

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: The Fast and The Furious
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2001
Genre: Action, Auto
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Matt Schulze, Chad Lindberg
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Budget: $38 Million
Box Office: $207 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four Cookies!

Furious 7 is out in 2 weeks and I didn’t have anything in mind to watch. This was suggested and as I watched it, I’m not sure if this fully qualifies as an action movie. It’s a more ‘gritty’ action movie so to speak, but the later installments are definitely more action oriented. 2001, wow, I could really show my age if I wanted to. This was before Vin Diesel became a big name, he’d probably acted in Pitch Black and Boiler Room before this and he had his loveable “I’m not going to do sequels” phase, which explains the painful experience that is 2Fast 2Furious.

A moment of silence, as we remember Paul Walker, may he ride in paradise.

Summary:

A group of thieves in fast cars with precision driving are hijacking big rig trucks along the California and Arizona highways. All the evidence points to one of the drag racing crews in nearby Los Angeles. Brian O’Connor (Walker) goes in undercover to find out which crew is the one pulling the heists. He’s not having much luck outside of flirting with the girl (Brewster) at Torreto’s Deli. He can’t get close to Dom (Diesel) and Vince (Schulze) has taken a real dislike to Brian’s interest in Mia. In an all or nothing bid, Brian enters into a drag race with Dom using his own car as collateral. When the cops show up to break up the scene, Brian steps in and saves Dom from being captured, earning him a temporary place in Dom’s crew, and a stab at Mia’s affections, much to Vince’s displeasure. Will Brian figure out if Dom is behind the heists in time before his superior’s pull the plug on his career and before the truckers stop using bats and start using guns?

Review:

This gritty and sparse film was a huge financial success, given on a $38 million budget it raked in $207 million, spawned 2 sequels without the film’s biggest star Vin Diesel, when he came back for number 4 due to sputtering box office numbers, the popularity of the movie series only increased. It is one of Universal’s largest franchises outside of Jurassic Park and the Bourne movies. That’s not bad given it started with the small budget, almost unknown actors and a movie based on a magazine article.

The movie has a lot of weaknesses but they also work in its favor.

For most the movie, the mainly male characters strut around, butting heads and measuring dicks and spitting out car jargon that would please any sort of racing or car enthusiastic and means nothing to most of the common man. This movie is overcharged with testosterone where the men have to beat on each other to become friends. Though, it’s doubtful that Vince is ever going to be friends with Brian no matter how many times they beat on each other. Mia doesn’t help by stirring the pot to piss Vince off. Brian goes at it with Dom. Brian goes at it with Vince. Dom goes at it with Vince. The different racing teams go at it with each other. Letty (Rodriguez) goes at it with the girls at the races. The script involves a lot of “You know that place where we did that thing, yo bro, that was some cool shit.” Then the film almost half-heartedly has a mention of a family theme with the barbeque and some words spoken between Brian and his superior. And despite spending 106 minutes with these characters, we never truly find out their motivations for about anything, including the heists. So, I’m pulling a quarter of a cookie for that.

But since we know this movie really isn’t about the characters and why they do anything. It’s about the cars and racing the cars and the excuse to have more shiny cars on the screen. In fact, they were so worried about the supposed realism of this movie with the drag racing, that the DVD included a PSA from Paul Walker to the tune of “please don’t try this at home.”So there are a lot of scenes of them racing cars against each other or driving in ‘precise’ formations. Half the plot is based upon the fact that Brian is not as good of a racer as he thinks he is and is in all things a greenie (shown in the color of his first car.)

In a way, the movie is kind of refreshing, because instead of talking about things, they actually go and do them without the characters saying to each other, now we’re going to do this, this and this. It doesn’t start with showing prepping for a truck heist, within five minutes of the movie you see a truck heist. Brian doesn’t tell his superior’s that he’s going to break into the other teams garages, he just does it. He also doesn’t tell Dom, which lands him in trouble with both Dom and Vince.

Script wise, they’ve got that one line, that they ended up using twice, that should have been cut because it’s so cheesy. So, I’ll dock quarter of a cookie for that. Someone who was watching it in tests should have heard it, cringed and cut it out.

They also blow up a perfectly good car for no good reason, which earns them a cookie. I saw blue and green flames. It was glorious.

Let’s talk about Mia and Letty. Mia is the one who ends up with the most difficult choice in the movie when Brian breaks his cover and tells her he’s a cop. There wasn’t time to spend agonizing over the decision on whether or not she’s going to help Brian but you can see that it is hard. Dom is her brother and she doesn’t want to see him go back to jail. She doesn’t have any sort of surety from Brian that he won’t put cuffs on Dom. However, with Dom’s life on the line, there truly is only one choice to make and she does. But the fate of the end climax of the movie is in her hands. It’s good to see that, given that up until that moment, she’d been little more than Brian’s girlfriend. And then there is Letty. It’s obvious, no matter how much Dom would like to deny it that Letty wears the pants in their relationship. She’s also not given much to do outside of being Dom’s girlfriend. She is part of the heist team and it is clear that she’s an integral part of that team. Dom would do anything for Letty. Dom makes stupid decisions about Letty. As the franchise goes on, this gender equality doesn’t change. So, a cookie.

The fights in this move are not martial arts masterpieces. They are down and gritty schoolyard fights where people pound on each other with their fists, throw each other around and headbutt without finesse. Which can be entertaining in its own way, in that “oh, that had to hurt” fashion. The reasons for the fights can be pretty petty, because really, who beats up a customer who comes to a deli everyday and orders the same sandwich. Mia being pretty is part of the reason why people come to the deli. If Vince keeps beating up all the customers who come to make eyes at Mia, soon they won’t have any customers and they won’t be making any money. Which is sort of the reason why you have a business to begin with! Reasons for the fights aside, one cookie.

This is probably the most realistic movie about racing in this particular franchise. If we want to call any movie about car racing realistic especially when it comes to Hollywood. They stick with pure quarter mile drag racing. There don’t seem to be a lot of computer generated effects, but it was 2001 and we were still using floppy disks back then. But as the movie went on, the world building began to fall apart a little bit. In the beginning the effects of the NOS were clearly seen and the characters reacted to it in believable ways. Controlling a car going over 90 miles per hour with speed and momentum isn’t easy and does take a certain amount of muscle. And it was also pretty clear how many boosts a car had. By the end of the movie, cars were being flipped up into the air and over in crashes, guns had unlimited ammunition and cars had unlimited NOS that didn’t effect the drivers at all. The rules changed and it was pretty jarring. So I’m going to have to dock half a cookie.

Overall, the Fast and the Furious is an entertaining movie if a bit slow. Scenes of guys getting into verbal and physical altercations are interspersed with tight adrenaline pumping racing scenes. We don’t get a sense of who most of the characters are, though there is a lot of potential for growth. Towards the end of the movie, the world building falls apart in favor of more adrenaline pumping action sequences. But wraps up with the audience knowing that the main point of the movie, stopping the heists, has happened. Four gingersnaps.

 

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