Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Matt Schluze, Rick Yune, Ted Levine, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong
Plot: In order to figure out who is behind the road heists, undercover cop, O’Connor (Walker) goes undercover in the underground street racing scene, where he is confronted by the dangerous Toretto (Diesel).
Looking at the Fast and Furious franchise as a whole, it could cause a few frowns and rolls of the eyes. It is hardly the most intelligent movie series out there, with some of the clunkiest dialogue going and stories that usually hit the stupid route in order to cram some pretty cars into the film. However, when we look at the original film, as a standalone movie, it is actually a pretty decent watch.
On the surface, this is a pretty decent cop thriller with underground racing as a running theme. This works well, as there is no shoe-horning in cars to an action movie. It just goes hand in hand here, seeming natural. We are treated to a gripping mystery, where we are given several shifty characters that could very easily be the mastermind behind the robberies. The amount of characters keep the pace going rather than getting the plot confusing like some of the later instalments. One moment, O’Connor is avoiding the wraith of Toretto, the next Johnny Tran’s Asian community is setting alight to his car. Throw in some beautifully directed street races and you have a pretty break-neck thriller with a good slice of action.
The biggest flaw here is the fact that Paul Walker is a pretty bland actor. His emotions never quite seem genuine. Luckily, O’Connor’s lines are kept natural. Walker plays the kind of guy you could see in a street-racing scene, acting or not. All it takes is for him to dial up some charm and police officer morals. Vin Diesel is the star of the show though, his Toretto, a towering menace on the big screen. His lines come out in a deep, booming voice, captivating the audience. If he always seems a little too serious in the later films, at least here the tone works for him. He grounds the film, always seeming natural even when the clichés threaten to become too much. He is one of the factors that make this film a hit, rather than a miss. The other actor, or actress, to bookmark here is Michelle Rodriguez. Letty is arguably her best role and definitely the one that put her on the map, even if it could be argued that the actress type-casts herself here as the strong, unconventionally pretty bad-ass.
If you are here for the cars, then you will be pleased with the result of this film. Here, it feels less gimmicky, the Mitsubishis and Chevrolets working in this context. The movie even gets a cameo from Ja Rule, who steals one of the funniest gags in the whole film. This is a very cool movie. Sure, I imagine these little remarks do limit this film to a certain generation. I can’t see an older audience really understanding why this police thriller needs to keep going back to scantily-clad women refereeing illegal racing. On the other hand, these are the trademarks that make Fast and Furious so unique. All of these gimmicks are the details that push ‘The Fast and Furious’ into the spotlight.
Sure, this movie may fall flat a lot, but it does have a secret weapon: heart. The franchise has only just found this again and is working on replicating it, but the original is a good character piece. Toretto is a layered anti-hero (much like Diesel’s other action icon, Riddick), and the final scene of the movie is nothing short of brilliant. Diesel’s performance always keeps Toretto a good character, even if his actions are a little on the dark side. As the actor constantly tells us, this is a film, not just about racing, but about family. The deep connections between the characters in this film is truly amazing to watch onscreen and something I wish the rest of these movies would touch upon more.
Final verdict: It wavers at points, but overall, The Fast and Furious is a powerful cop thriller with some interesting characters. Let down by its sequels.