The Fast and the Furious

(Rob Cohen, USA, 2001)


With reference to the sometimes draggy, repetitious middle sections in contemporary American movies, screenwriter Buck Henry has ruefully commented: "We tend to spin the wheels". The Fast and the Furious sags awfully at its centre, and here a major reason is literally that the wheels don’t spin enough.

Mysterious criminals in very fast cars are hijacking trucks. Brian (Paul Walker) is sent undercover to investigate the subculture around Dominic (Vin Diesel). As Brian gets drawn further into this world, he becomes less clear as to whom the primary suspects might be.

Two early scenes involving high-speed road action are genuinely exciting, effectively blending old-fashioned action with new-fangled digital effects and a techno score by BT.

But the film bogs down for a long time in the tired routine of its undercover intrigue. Especially listless are the scenes where Brian checks in with his police superiors. And when at last we return to the action, it is no longer so impressive.

This is a film very obviously designed for adolescent males. Virtually every establishing shot of random girls at racing sites is a pan-up from shoes to cleavage, as if ogling a line of hookers.

But as for any hot and heavy dealings between men and women – forget it. Firstly, the film downplays explicit sex action so it can stay within market range of the kids. Secondly, it simply doesn’t care about that mushy love stuff.

Brian’s relationship with Mia (Jordana Brewster) hardly registers, and Michelle Rodriguez (who was so impressive in Girlfight, 2000) is wasted in the role of Letty, Dominic’s girlfriend, who postures while ordering various ‘skanks’ to stay away from her man.

The real love story here is the manly bond that develops between Brian and Dominic. Their stoic gestures of loyalty are clearly intended as a homage to the hard-boiled heroics in John Carpenter’s action films (like Assault on Precinct 13, 1976).

Unfortunately, Diesel and Walker are devoid of chemistry or charisma, and Rob Cohen’s dreary direction lacks the necessary flamboyance and irony.

sequel: 2 Fast 2 Furious

MORE Cohen: Daylight, A Small Circle of Friends, xXx

© Adrian Martin September 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search