“… the performances were weak to say the least and the story wasn’t any better, but the action scenes more than make up for any shortcomings…”
I am a huge fan of action movies and some of the best action movies of today come from The Fast and the Furious franchise. Started in 2001, The Fast and the Furious franchise has grown to heights that were incomprehensible at the time of the original films’ release, and I have a feeling that it will keep on growing. To honour this beloved franchise, I’ve decided to do a series re-watch starting with the first film, The Fast and the Furious. The Fast and the Furious follows Brian (Paul Walker), a newbie to the street racing scene who eventually earns the trust of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew. Dominic takes Brian under his wing and teaches him everything there is to know about cars; but tragedy strikes when it is revealed that Brian is an undercover cop who is investigating a string of well-planned heists, and Dominic may be the man behind it all. The Fast and the Furious has everything: fast cars, scantily-clad women, and a whole lot of dated technology. Really The Fast and the Furious is the movie from everyone’s dreams.
The Fast and the Furious as a franchise has grown so much over the last decade or so, but some people might forget that the series started off as a Point Break ripoff. That’s right, replace surfing and other extreme sports for street racing (and remove the insane amount of hair present in Point Break) and you have The Fast and the Furious. Now this may sound like I’m chastising the film for not being original, but that’s not at all my intention. Do I think that The Fast and the Furious is a better version of Point Break than Point Break itself? Not by a mile, but I do think the story in The Fast and the Furious was just something to tide you over for all of the action scenes. The Fast and the Furious is not a movie that is very deep, for lack of a better term. The story is very basic, and none of the writing is anything more than what you would expect. Characters say what they need to say to move the scene along, even if that means some relationships in the film are there for seemingly no reason. But who gives a shit, right? Watching the Fast and the Furious for the story is like watching Schindler’s List for the jokes; you’re in it for the wrong reasons. And even if the movie did have a good story, there is no way in hell any one of these actors could have pulled it off. I mean they were even struggling with the basic lines they were given in this iteration, I can’t even imagine what The Fast and the Furious would look like if any of these actors had to show subtlety. Be it the deadpan delivery, the fucking awful ADR, or the stupid look that Paul Walker has on his face throughout the entire movie (you know the one, the open-mouthed smile with the thousand-yard stare), these performances were definitely not the strong part of the movie. The only person in The Fast and the Furious who gave a decent performance was Vin Diesel, but even he only had a few moments where his talent shined through. Now I’m not shitting on these actors, because this movie was very early in many of their careers, but I’m just saying that much like the story, you don’t watch The Fast and the Furious for the performances.
The Fast and the Furious, despite not having a great story or good performances, did do one thing right: it acted as a time capsule into the early two-thousands. Everything in The Fast and the Furious is dated, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if aliens will study it to see what humans were like throughout the ages. Let’s forget about the outrageously expensive plot-device (a million dollars in DVD players and televisions with built-in VCR’s? Did they steal a million of them?), but everything down to the music in the movie is built around the time that it came out. You have old-school flip phones, Toyota Supras with gaudy paint jobs, and don’t even get me started on the clothes that people were wearing. On top of all of world-building stuff, you also have a few very dated displays of CGI technology of the time. Now these effects that I’m about to mention looked terrible, don’t get me wrong, but the were used sparingly enough and in ways that I think forgives how shitty they look. First of all let’s talk about the inside-engine view of a car shooting off of the starting line. This effect is cool as shit, and if I’m not mistaken it gets used a few more times throughout the series, but that being said it also looked like shit. Nothing looked real about those parts of the engine, but I can excuse this because: 1) It was an effect that was only used once, and 2) it was only on screen for about thirty seconds. So while it did take me out of the movie, it fit right in with everything else that had already taken me out of the movie (music, clothes, electronics). The second effect that I have a problem with occurs not long after the last one, and that is the “nitrous effect”. How do you show that a car is going really fast? Make them go through the wormhole present in 2001: A Space Odyssey of course. The effect of Paul Walker driving along with fluorescent streaks of coloured light flashing by his passenger-side window is not an effect that looks good. Once again, I appreciate where the filmmakers were coming from because it is a pretty cool effect in theory, but I have to wonder if any of them have ever been in a fast-moving vehicle, and if so what dugs had they taken before-hand? Going fast in a car doesn’t look at all like it was depicted in the movie, unless of course you’ve managed to hit 88 miles-per-hour and you are about to travel back in time. So once again these effects were cool in theory, but the execution just solidifies my point the The Fast and the Furious is a product of its time.
Despite The Fast and the Furious having a few moments of terrible, 2000’s CGI, the main action sequences were spared and therefore still look great. Now when you think of The Fast and the Furious (the franchise) you think of huge action set pieces, but for the most part The Fast and the Furious (the movie) didn’t have many of those. Now this may sound like a flaw, but really it makes the huge action sequences that much sweeter when they come along. In particular, the final thirty or so minutes of The Fast and the Furious is a nonstop action ride that showcase what this team is capable of. Both the truck scene and the final chase scene are two of phenomenally choreographed action sequences that use (as far as I could tell) practical effects. These moments were like the light at the end of tunnel that is The Fast and the Furious. The movie isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough to keep you entertained without doing something amazing; luckily it delivered by the end with not one, but two great action sequences that make everything you just sat through completely worth it.
Overall The Fast and the Furious is a pretty solid start to a franchise. Sure the performances were weak to say the least and the story wasn’t any better, but the action scenes more than make up for any shortcomings that the rest of the movie had. My final verdict is while The Fast and the Furious may not be a good movie, it is a good action movie and a movie that is a fun time for anyone watching.
I give The Fast and the Furious a B