The Fast and the Furious (2001) – Action | Drama
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Starring: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker
Review by Eric Scot Lemons
For those of you who are unenlightened, The Fast and the Furious is a tale of men, mostly white, who are both quick and angry. They drive cars, not to run errands, but to race each other and steal “high-end” electronics. The story centers around Brian, who is secretly a cop trying to infiltrate a gang of street racers in order to get to the bottom of a bunch of thefts involving fast cars. It is essentially Point Break but for a new generation of douchebags who unironically drink Nos energy drink and put over-sized spoilers, and neon racing stripes on their souped up Kia Sentras. Everyone in the film speaks with a superfluous intensity and in faux manly witticisms. “I live my life a quarter mile at a time.” The soundtrack is a mix between Ja Rule B-sides and Limp Bizkit hits. That all being said, this may be one of the coolest movies I have ever seen.
Vin Diesel is Dom, the leader of the gang and brother of the girl Brian wants to bang (that’s a motherfucking rhyme, FYI), and speaks using guttural utterances with the least possible use of his tongue. This is probably why Diesel (formerly known as Mark Sinclair) has done voice work for such eloquent characters as Iron Giant and Groot. He cares about two things: racing cars and protecting his sister. Also sexing Michelle Rodriguez in Room-esque montages. Also, his dead dad. So, there are a bunch of things he cares about. He is “boosting merch,” as the streetwise LAPD call it, and Brian, played by the creepily handsome Paul Walker (RIP), is the man sent undercover to fuck his sister and, secondarily stop(?) them from stealing car stereos from moving semis. He falls in love with both Dom’s sister and potentially with Dom himself, and when it is time to arrest Dom for being a life criminal, he inexplicably lets him go – because they had achieved something so much greater than justice. And the Bro Code supercedes all other laws. Drive off in my discreet bright orange racer so the cops don’t find you.
That’s all I can tell you about the plot. There is some side shit about Asians stealing shit too. But it just feels like excuses to get in epic, and I mean fucking epic, car chases. The best thing about the film is the practical effects on the car chases and crashes. They are constantly going after peeps in semis and on motorcycles around busy streets and there are a lot of long looks from drivers to each other as they prepare to do something awesome. It is fun. The plot is dumb. But every time the engines rev and the music starts pumping with, “Watch your back!” you can’t help but pay attention. I love films that know exactly what they are. This is a film made to feature high action and countless (amazing amount) of product placement, and all the writer had to do is put in a little dialogue to make you slightly care about the handsome white man in the green car as he runs after the Japanese man in the black car.
And that’s something I wanted to talk about with this initial foray into the speedster franchise. There seems to be this weird subtext of race that permeates throughout. Nothing is defined in such terms blatantly, but during the initial race, we see a clear definition of groups: there are the Asians, the Latinos, the Black racers, and the white team. And though all enter in with friendly competition, there still is a defining line differentiating all the teams. Dom, played by a half-black Vin Diesel is the wrench in purely racial grouping, but having his sister be a white Jordana Brewster with a shit load of bronzer makes me wonder if Dom was written as white and cast with the up-and-coming Diesel, fresh off of his success in Pitch Black.
In fact, the big racing competition where all the groups eventually meet is called “Race Wars.” Is this the work of the Alt-Right race-driven concepts of supremacy, wherein the only person of color to defeat the main white group is the aforementioned Japanese man, using illegally smuggled parts? Or is this just the laziness of a white screenwriter who can’t think outside of his own prejudices? I tend to believe it is the latter, rather than the former, due to the fact that pretty much everyone in this film is corrupt on some level, and the corruption becomes law. And while I don’t believe The Fast and the Furious intends to be a narrative on the competition between races, I do believe that White Nationalists play this movie in the lobby of their headquarters. Probably in North Idaho. Or the White House.
Overall, this movie is flush with idiotic fun and fast cars and Morpheus sunglasses. Will the film bring about enlightenment or the path to understanding the human condition? Nope. But if you want to get stoned and see bright colors and hear loud music. Check this fucker out.