As I stated in my list of franchises I’ve overlooked, when I first heard about The Fast and the Furious I sort of gave it the brush-off. It’s not that I expected it to be a bad movie or anything like that; it’s more that I didn’t really expect it to be anything of note at all. It looked like it would be a moderately fun film centered around the car chases that most action movies have as a single set piece. I wasn’t deliberately staying away from it, but I wasn’t going to seek it out, either. I expected it be a flash in the pan and quickly forgotten.
Obviously, as the seventh film in the series is coming out next year, after some retooling following the unfortunate early death of star Paul Walker, that assessment wasn’t correct. The franchise about wheels clearly has some legs. So it was past time for me to check out the film that started it all.
Walker stars as Brian O’Conner, a clean cut young man who is trying to break into the underground street racing scene. He gets his chance when, after blowing it at a race, he helps racing mogul Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) escape from a police bust of the illegal drag race. Toretto is allegedly involved in a series of cargo truck hijackings, but O’Conner doesn’t see any overt evidence of it. Further, he feels torn about the situation; while his duty may be to expose Toretto’s dealings to the police if Toretto truly is guilty, he has come to like Toretto… and to love Toretto’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).
It may not be film noir, but if it’s a crime film, there’s still always a woman entangled with the hero.
I had expected nothing more than a simple action movie with a lot of car chases, and in truth that’s what The Fast and the Furious is. What I had forgotten to account for is that this is a lot of fun. There’s a reason why car chases are often the most-remembered parts of action films; they’re exciting. And The Fast and the Furious is essentially one car chase after another. But it’s a little more balanced than just a pure adrenaline rush. The conflicted feelings of the characters provide some emotional depth and meaning to the action — and though Walker shoulders the bulk of the drama, all three of the main characters have conflicted feelings to work out. They all like each other more than they trust each other, which is a simple recipe for interesting character actions.
There are a few plot irregularities — I’m not completely certain I’d call them holes — that crop up in the film. Of particular note is a scene where one suspected hijacker turns out to have obtained everything lawfully. This begs the question of why somebody who apparently isn’t involved in electronics retail would have a mechanic’s garage full of DVD players. However, when coupled with the fast pace of the film, these irregularities become “fridge logic” at worst — i.e., those questions that occur when you get up to go to the fridge after watching the film. During the film itself, the action leaves little time for your conscious and subconscious to exchange communiques about such details, and they are only that: details. None of these questions are significant enough to detract in any major way from the film.
The Fast and the Furious is not by any stretch a groundbreaking action film nor a deep one, and even after watching it I’m still somewhat surprised that the franchise is looking at a seventh entry. But it’s a fun ride, and that’s all it ever promised.