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Vin-Diesel-Paul-Walker-1.jpg (8703 bytes)The other night I was talking to a guy who lived the street racing lifestyle. He’s seventeen, still in high school and works a full time job just so he can upgrade engine parts and lower the chassis of his little Japanese import. This kid lived the movie. He couldn’t keep the enthusiasm out of his voice as he talked about smoking BMWs with his Toyota Corolla. Everything seemed to revolve around cars and speed. A litany of carspeak slid off his tongue like bald tires on a wet highway. This guy didn’t care about drugs, and sex was not the all-consuming obsession it is in most kids his age. His fix, the thing that made life worth living, was how quickly he could go from zero to sixty.

It would be easy to dismiss The Fast and the Furious as a pretty basic remake of Point Break (right down to Paul Walkers best attempt at the Keanu walk), but it does offer a glimpse into a subculture that thrives just beneath the veneer of middle class America. The movie’s success is a testament to America’s obsession with cars and speed. It’s a culture that I honestly don’t understand. I have never really cared about cars. Valves, cams, and horsepower mean absolutely nothing to me, so when I saw the preview for The Fast and the Furious, I thought that it had "bomb" written all over it. When it rocketed to first place and ended up making an obscene amount of money I had to rethink just how many people in this country obsess about their cars.

Paul Walker plays an undercover cop who is trying to break a ring of high speed truck jackers. Alliances are made, loyalties are questioned and lots of cool cars travel from left to right and right to left across the screen. And we can’t forget the doomed love story needed to add emotional weight to the events on the screen. Vin Diesel plays the mentor/antagonist role of the film. The guy has real presence; it’s just too bad that he hasn’t found a film to take advantage of that presence yet.

The movie itself is pretty review proof. There’s nothing I can really say about how well it executes its premise. I think that there could have been a lot of things done better in this movie. Rob Cohn has not really shown that he has any flare for directing. I always come away from his films thinking how I would have tweaked little things to make the film work just a little better. The Fast and the Furious could have had more laughs; some of the action sequences could have been more tightly executed; and the script could have been less blatant in its approach to that classic suffer/heist movie of the early nineties. But the thing is it didn’t need to be better. It obviously gave audiences what they were looking for.

The disc includes a DTS and Dolby Digital soundtrack, a bevy of music videos that have been bleeped out so the DVD could retain its PG-13 rating, numerous documentaries, and a director’s commentary. My favorite extra was the inclusion of the original magazine article that inspired the film. Pretty much anything you could want to know about this movie can be found on this disc. As is the case with special edition DVDs of mediocre movies, the extras try to make a case for the film’s merits.

People who are going to like this film will like it no matter what I say, and people who can’t be bothered with cars probably won’t even take a second look at it. I wasn’t incredibly disappointed in the film because I didn’t expect that much. Even my car friend didn’t get too worked up over the movie. He liked it just fine, but he was a little annoyed by the bad rap it gave people like he and his friends. The cars are sufficiently fast and the soundtrack sufficiently loud for a pleasant Saturday night diversion. I’m starting to learn that we really can’t ask much more than that from Hollywood.

Jason Frank   (01/24/2002)


Ups: Just the sort of thing you'll enjoy if you enjoy this sort of thing.

Downs: Doesn't really appeal to anyone looking for more than a fast-paced teen action flick with lots of cars and a loud soundtrack.

Platform: DVD