Summer Blockbuster Friday #18: ‘The Fast and the Furious (2001)’- Throwback Review

It’s been a long time since I watched The Fast and the Furious, the one that started it all. Looking back at it now, it’s so crazy how it’s completely different from how insane the latter sequels are compared to a more grounded approach to a silly action movie that essentially not the worst starting point of what would’ve become one of Universal Picture’s most popular franchises.

What’s the Story: Los Angeles street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) falls under the suspicion of the LAPD as a string of high-speed electronics truck robberies rocks the area. Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), an officer of the LAPD, joins the ranks of Toretto’s highly skilled racing crew undercover to convict Toretto. However, O’Connor finds himself both enamored with this new world and in love with Toretto’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). As a rival racing crew gains strength, O’Connor must decide where his loyalty really lies.

The Fast and the Furious (2001) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

The first time I watched The Fast and the Furious was probably with my dad when we had the VHS tape of it, and this was back in the early years of the series. The impression I had with it was thinking it was cool despite not being a massive fan of cars. The title suggests this was a remake of the 1955 movie of the same name. Nope. How this movie became to be is interesting as director Rob Cohen read an article called “Racer X” from a 1998 Vibe magazine about underground street races and thought it would be cool to turn it into a movie. Even if half its viewers might not consider themselves car enthusiasts, this was going to take us on a fast ride through a fast-paced franchise-starter that’s while not the kind that will win any prestigious awards, made for an entertaining watch.

Normally, you should take nothing serious about this while it’s for your viewing pleasure when you put this on to watch car races with the addition of something else between them. Luckily, this was made for the adrenaline junkies of the 2000s who’ve wanted to follow street racing and nothing else. And you take a look at the directing and script and think there’s nothing entirely special about it, but it’s easy to look at this as one to turn your brain off for two hours.

Many won’t be disappointed with the action provided since it’ll be easy to not get psyched or at least feel a certain rush, wondering if you could drive that fast without getting caught by the cops. Just know this is the first movie and at no point during it does it switch to being ridiculous suddenly and doesn’t try to be realistic, of course. And I should also note the stunt work for making them look convincing.

One reason this worked is the paring of both Vin Diesel and Paul Walker that holds this series together and what really made them stars after its release. It’s their characters and chemistry you care most about. I know some people didn’t think Walker was a good actor, but I’m usually on his side with most of his roles, and he was perfect as Brian O’Connor when there isn’t any other actor to fill this performance, while this is Diesel’s first and more recognizable role as anti-hero Dom, who I thought stole the entire movie. Their moments shouldn’t have worked, but when you consider Brian taking into the lifestyle of Dom and getting close to him and his team, how could you not be curious to see how everything will get down whether he’s been hanging out with the potential criminals? The strongest characters that have a bromance inescapable to take interest in.

The Fast and the Furious (2001) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Then you have a couple of familiar faces that’ll pop up in the sequels later on like Michelle Rodriguez as Dom’s girlfriend Letty and Jordana Brewster as Mia, Dom’s sister and Brian’s love interest who knows he’s going to have the tuna whenever he comes in the shop. Everybody else from Matt Schulze (Vince), Chad Lindberg (Jesse), and Johnny Strong (Leon) as part of the crew weren’t too bad either.

Since this came out two decades ago, you can tell this was a product of its time. Just from the music choices (Ja Rule, Limp Bizkit) or how the crew hijacks tracks to steal electronics like Panasonic TVs kind of shows it was on a small scale compared to now. The overall story doesn’t hold many surprises, and it’s pretty easy to always compare this to the ’90s guilty pleasure Point Break because it’s how I and everyone else can see the similarities, mostly. Just replace surfing with racing and it’s the same thing, beat from beat. Funny enough, this felt like more of a remake than the actual remake we unfortunately got. Woof!! And while the action was cool, some of the CGI while the characters were driving looked so fake with its green screen. Even the ending kind of felt too quick and made it seem like it was setting up a sequel when it did feel like a standalone movie. But that might just be me.

Although it’s not difficult to see why some won’t become attached to this series since they seem to think it’s real, it’s literally a movie about cars; what more do you want? It took them a decade to get a worthy sequel, and it’s one of the more enjoyable movies Cohen has ever directed, followed by a string of bad movies after the other. But I still consider this a fun watch that will also make you feel old. Even though this got mixed reviews from critics, the film made over $200 million at the worldwide box office, which led to the second installment, 2 Fast 2 Furious, to come out just two years later with Walker reprising his role while Diesel and Cohen followed this up with 2002’s xXx. And even though the MTV Movie Awards don’t matter, its two stars won Best On-Screen Duo. Before the fifth installment came out just the years later, this was the only movie I have a positive response to.

Final Thoughts: The Fast and the Furious doesn’t hold many original ideas and the ending can feel quick, but there’s no doubt the first installment still offers enough fun to get behind, especially with the help of the chemistry between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel. Also, it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning. Truth words.

Grade: B

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