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"In the old days Furious would have been called a 'B' movie."

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Rated PG-13


Director:
Rob Cohen
Screenwriter:
Gary Scott Thompson
Cast:
Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Lenny), Noel Guglielmi (Hector), Ted Levine (Sgt. Levine)
Running Time: 101 minutes
Released: July 13, 2001

 

ALTERNATE REALITY Review by Lawrence Evans
HIS RATING: RECOMMENDED (*** stars)
 

The success of Fast & Furious has caught a few people by surprise but for the life of me I don't know why. The film is loaded with hot young actors, has a simple subject matter as street racing and the trailer has been running in multiplexes since early February. Universal has marketed the hell out of this film to the point that it was destined to make money.

The plot is uncomplicated and unoriginal. Paul Walker's character is an undercover cop assigned to find out who is behind a series of daring truck robberies by a group that do their takedowns at high speeds. One of the robberies is seen at the beginning of the film to set the pace but add nothing to the mystery. Walker's cop is run by Ted Levine (his second film this summer) and his unit is one of those joint task force deals that is given one of Eddie (Carrie's dad) Fisher's old Hollywood homes to work out of. Diesel is one of the suspects and director Rob Cohen gives him a cool introduction at the small store he and his sister (Jordana Brewster) run. Girlfight's Michelle Rodriquez is Diesel's girlfriend and part of the extended family of street racers.

In the old days Furious would have been called a 'B' movie. It would have been the first half of a double bill (man, I miss those) and would have served to introduce new actors under the old Hollywood star system. After the studio system went away films like this were in abundance in the 70's so that the drive-in crowd had something to see before the windows got steamed up. During that era that would have meant we would be seeing Nick Nolte as Walker, Lee Marvin as Levine, Al Pacino as Diesel and someone like Valerie Perrine in either the Brewster or Rodriguez role. The films of this type also involved a certain amount of nudity but studios these days seem to think audiences are afraid of nudity so we get teased but no delivery. The plot for this movie and ones done years past is simple and derivative of movies seen before. At a certain moment this film I thought I had wandered into a screening of the Katherine Bigelow film Point Break. The endings for both films are exactly the same.

The script for this film was sort of laying around in what is called 'development hell' at Universal until Rob Cohen decided to do it and even then a young screenwriter named David Ayer  (U-571) was brought in to shape it into the finished product we see today. Since then Ayer has gotten really hot, he wrote the upcoming Denzel Washington film Training Day and rewrote novelist James Ellroy's The Plague Season (now called 4/12/92) that most are very high on for next year. I get the feeling that the Levine/Walker scenes and the backstory of Diesel's character came from him but I would need to get my hands on the script before he was assigned the job to make sure. We are also given a number of suspects here but aside from the character played by Rick Yune it's impossible to buy any of them. The dialogue is nothing to write home about but the actors make it seem better than it is.

Director Rob Cohen has tried a few times to make a hit film and with this he finally made it. The last film he made was The Skulls (sequel being planned) and he also handled Dragonheart. Cohen works a few tricks into Furious by showing us the interior of the engine during a race and also letting us know what the driver is seeing when he's cruising along at 140 miles per hour.

Acting wise, I see why people are high on Paul Walker because he has the look of someone what could be big but he still comes off as another pretty boy type. He's almost doing an imitation of Keanu Reeves in Point Break but is believable as the young cop with conflicted feelings. Vin Diesel has come along nicely; he has the presence and his voice draws you in. He has a few great scenes here and his reaction to finding out Walker is a cop is awesome; you feel the rage and betrayal coursing through him. The actresses are just okay though. Brewster is highly attractive but she isn't really acting here, she's just along for the ride. You can see the attitude come through in Rodriquez's performance but she comes off as posturing. Rick Yune is also very good as one of Diesel's rivals and one of the possible suspects. Ted Levine is much better here than he was at any single moment in Evolution.

So, is Furious worth seeing? If you go into it expecting nothing too challenging then feel free to do so. It never tries to become anything that it isn't.

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS 2001 Universal Pictures.
All Rights Reserved.

Review 2003 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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