Mark Reviews Movies


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Ted Levine

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 6/22/01

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Review by Mark Dujsik

For a movie about racing, it’s surprising how little racing there actually is in The Fast and the Furious. The movie starts with a high-speed robbery and slowly develops an opening race through the streets of Hollywood, but after these two sequences, it kicks into brain-dead plot mode and continues in this fashion until its conclusion, which does have a certain redeeming all-out, mindless action sequence quality to it. My biggest problem: Where are all of the chases and races and people doing reckless things? I can and do appreciate a good mindless action movie every now and then, but The Fast and the Furious doesn’t go for the easy thrills often enough. In their place, we get a tired undercover cop finding a smuggling/thievery ring plot with bad dialogue and acting that doesn’t fare much better.

Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has just started up in California. He works for a high-class parts shop and visits Mia (Jordana Brewster) who works behind the counter of a low-grade grill everyday. He gets into a fight with a local racing gang member who also wants her, but they’re stopped by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Mia’s brother and the head of the group. He doesn’t make a good first impression, and to correct his mistake, Brian goes to the street race being held that night. He bets his car, a nice piece of machinery equipped with tanks of nitrous and a computer system that operates it. Do they actually make equipment like that? Anyway, he loses, and the cops break up the race after it’s all over. Dominic escapes them with Brian’s help, and they head off to see Johnny Tran (Rick Yune); Dominic has business problems with the man, which we can tell when Johnny’s gang shoots up Brian’s car. The two go back to Dominic’s house, and he seems to take Brian under his wing. Soon after, we learn that Brian is an undercover cop looking for a gang robbing truckers, and Dominic is their prime suspect.

Then for a very large chunk of its hour and forty-five minute running time, the movie is all plot. I think the critical institution of complaining that action movies have too little plot is a bit misguided, and here is the proof. When it comes down to it, movies like this are made for simple entertainment value, and as long as it delivers, the plot should be secondary. In this case, the action scenes do deliver, but they are too far and in-between. I am dumbstruck learning that it took three screenwriters, with one of them providing a story based upon a magazine article, to write this. Shouldn’t one of them have come to the realization that nothing interesting or exciting happens during a part of the movie called "the entire middle section." And then there’s the dialogue, which is about bad as it comes. Best exchange: "Dominic is like gravity." My thought: He’s constant? "Everyone is attracted to him." That works too, I guess, but perhaps the simile of a magnet would work better.

Again the action scenes work, for the most part. They are contrived, yes, but there are real cars and stuntmen for the most part. Occasionally special effects are used, unconvincingly, to give us the world flying by in the window or a shot here and there that propels itself through the engine. The scenes are excessive and unbelievable, but there’s just something about two cars just barely flying past a speeding train that makes you think, how’d they do that? Some other conventional action scenes involve guns and incredibly accurate aim. Let me clarify. In a key scene, the villains have such good aim that they manage to miss everyone except the one character that needs to be killed for the plot to progress. Later in a chase, they manage to shoot everything but our hero. Now that takes talent.

Acting is a term I would use loosely for many of these performers. The tendency for the main characters is to underact while the extras in the background overact. The one small saving grace is the presence of Vin Diesel who actually is quite a good actor, and if there was anyone whose name destined him to be in a movie about fast cars, it’s him. Everyone else seems cast for appearances. These are the Hollywood-Hollywood streets, which are overly populated with beautiful women, tough guys, and fast cars. What else could you ask for? As it turns out, quite a lot.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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