The Fast and the Furious

Two men. One dream. Strapped into monster machines fired out of God’s slingshot.

Gone in 60 Seconds? Suck Diesel fumes. Driven? Yo mama’s callin’. With The Fast and the Furious, Rob Cohen (Dragonheart, The Monster Squad) has blasted far ahead of the pack to deliver the racing classic Hollywood seems to have been searching for over the past year.

I was expecting the worst. Despite the presence of Vin Diesel, who is fast becoming a great favorite, this looked to be yet another flick trying to bank on a famous title. For those of you who don’t know: The Fast and the Furious was the name of the first picture Roger Corman produced and wrote for American International Pictures back in 1954. It’s not much to look at today – just a cheap little racing flick with John Ireland and Dorothy Malone – but it cleaned up at the drive-ins and put AIP and Corman on the map.

The plot to this F&F is nothing to get excited about either. It’s pretty damn silly much of the time, even laughable. But so is every Bruce Lee movie – the scripts aren’t what makes them great either.

Purported to be based on an article about street racers by writer Ken Li, the flick is built on a gang of highwaymen in souped-up vehicles preying on truckloads of electronics on the West Coast. Star Paul Walker (Monster in the Closet) is a cop assigned to go undercover to bust the gang, mainly because of his ill-spent youth as a car thief. Knowing the gang has to be part of the world of illegal street racers, Walker hits on the sister (Jordana Brewster from The Faculty) of Dom Toretto (Diesel), a champion street racer. After mucho macho hi-jinx, Walker gains the trust and respect of Toretto’s team. But as he tries to figure which team of ethnically segregated racers are behind the heists, his cop and FBI superiors put on the pressure, knowing it won’t be long until the truckers get trigger happy protecting their own. The evidence he’s coming up with is pretty skimpy. Is Toretto’s team, with whom he’s getting more and more chummy, really the thieves? Will he survive the dangerous world he’s dealing with long enough to find out?

Yeah, it’s the plot of hundreds of TV shows and cheap movies. What sets this one apart is the raw power Cohen and company put into the action scenes. The custom built cars, each equipped with a variety of trick features and designs, roar through the streets like they have warp drive – and the imaginative camera work, good performances and pounding soundtrack put you right in the driver’s seat. I don’t know much about cars myself, but I’m betting this is the ultimate auto buff’s porno. No one will mistake The Fast and the Furious for a chick flick – the fuel mixture is 90% testosterone. But Cohen’s mastery of cinema art manages to put in just enough drama and comedy to keep things moving while blasting you out of your seat time and time again with one great chase after another.

It’s unfortunate there are so few drive-in theaters left, because this picture would be perfect for an ozoner.

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