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Late To The Party: The Fast and the Furious

Late To The Party is a series of reviews ranging from classical masterpieces to modern-day blockbusters where I look to make my confession for the sin of not having seen them before. I seek absolution from the film universe and hope to never again suffer your disdain for my film faux pas. I am Fredo, in the boat. Hail Mary, full of grace.

Read my other Late To The Party reviews
Today’s film in question has spawned no less than eight direct sequels, one spin-off, a web series, many video games, a live stunt show tour and even theme park attractions. It is, of course, The Fast and the Furious (2001). The franchise boasts a collective cast including Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson and inevitably, Jason Statham.

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is an undercover LA cop sent to infiltrate a gang of street racers led by muscle-bound Toretto (Vin Diesel). They are suspected of being responsible for a spate of truck heists, stealing millions of dollars’ worth of electrical equipment. As O’Connor gets deeper and deeper involved in the high-speed underground world, his loyalties are tested and he will have to eventually choose between the world of underground street racing and his duties as a police officer. So basically Point Break, but with cars in place of surfboards.

For those who nod approvingly when they see a plane wing bolted on top of a 1995 Vauxhall Nova, the lowered chassis sparking as it scrapes over newly installed traffic calming measures on Southend seafront, the boot lid barely able to close because of the bass bins spilling out of the back, blaring out bass notes so low and loud that your kidneys vibrate, driven by someone sat so far back in their bucket seat they have to look through the steering wheel rather than over it, as the dustbin sized exhaust growls by, the open windows fill the air with a sickly cocktail of skunk, vanilla-scented air fresheners and stale McDonald’s cartons, this is very much the film for you.

When the film is concerned with showing shiny cars sporting neons, racing around the streets of LA, it almost becomes entertaining. Almost. The action is well choreographed. The stunt work is competent but fails to really thrill or feel dangerous in the same way a first-time watch felt for any of the Mad Max films. It feels more ‘Annoyed Max’ or ‘Very Frustrated Max’. There is no mad anywhere. The stunts are comparable to anything seen in 80s shows such as The A-Team or The Fall Guy.

The real problems for the film start when the engines are turned off and we are forced to endure some ‘acting’. Having played video games for many years, it is not an exaggeration to say the between-level story sequences you have to sit through in games of old such as Metal Gear Solid or Fallout 3 carry more emotional heft and dramatic tension than any scene in this film that doesn’t involve cars, guns or cars and guns together. It is, of course, understood that if you are watching this film, you are not looking for a John Le Carre-esque labyrinthine plot or the social realism of Mike Leigh. But, surely it’s not too much to ask for a plot that holds up under the scrutiny of a 10-year-old, a script that has the feel of a story written by that same 10-year-old and characters realised no more than ‘girlfriend’, ‘bad guy’, ‘ good cop boss’, ‘bad cop boss’ and ‘sympathetic man with something like ADD or whatever’. Character arcs are cut off and ignored without explanation and we are given no reason to care about anyone involved, other than because ‘I liked their car’.

The most disappointing part of watching this film was the appearance of Ted Levine, who terrified us all with his iconic performance as Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs (1991). Unfortunately for us, it’s a different kind of talent he tucks away and hides in this film.

The Fast and the Furious is not a film I will be keen to watch again, nor has it piqued my interest in its many sequels, regardless of how ridiculous they become or how much shark-jumping is performed, in a modified Vauxhall Nova with a plane wing bolted on the roof.

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One Comment

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