Well howdy Beardlings and welcome to the first ever “Better Late Than Never” Movie Review where I hop in the way back machine and check out a movie that I somehow never got around to seeing.
With “The Fate of the Furious” set to hit theaters in a couple weeks, I thought I would kick off this series with the movie that started off the billion dollar franchise – 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”, starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, cars, and more car related techno-babble than you can shake a stick shift at. And can I confess something? I’ve never seen a single movie in the Fast and Furious franchise – even the huge blockbusters of recent years. Because of that the first seven entries of the “Better Late Than Never” Review series will be me cramming in 16 years of movies into 11 days, hopefully in time to catch “The Fate of the Furious” opening weekend and give you guys my thoughts on it.
Without any further ado – let’s talk about “The Fast and the Furious”!
Coming in to this franchise cold, I didn’t really know what to expect besides fast cars and cool stunts so watching the plot of this movie unfold without any real preconceived notion of where it was going was very cool. A lot of times these days, I feel like I can piece together the general flow and plot points of a movie from the bajillion trailers and TV spots we get before the movie actually comes out. For those that don’t know, “The Fast and the Furious” follows undercover cop Brian O’Conner, played by Paul Walker, as he tries to infiltrate the world of illegal street racing by befriending Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to try and catch a group of racers who have been hijacking big rig trucks. Along the way, Brian falls for Dom’s sister Mia and Dom’s crew’s rivalry with a motorcycle gang heats up, complicating matters.
I feel like there are really three subplots at play here –
- Brian’s investigation into the truck hijackings
- The rivalry between the two crews
- Brian’s romance with Mia and his becoming part of the crew
I feel like this movie could have almost done without subplot #1. Between the three, it felt the most disjointed from the other two. The movie opens with the first hijacking, which from a stunt work perspective was cool, but we don’t see another heist go down until around an hour into the movie and we don’t find out Brian is an undercover cop until almost as long. By the time both of those scenes happen, I was so wrapped up in Brian becoming a part of the crew and the street racing scenes, that I forgot about that first hijacking sequence. At times it felt like “The Fast and the Furious” really just wanted to be a street racing movie but had to add in the truck hijackings/investigation story to make it more interesting. It’s almost like they focused so hard on the certain aspects of the movie that they forgot to really develop other parts of it.
Of course with that said, I really enjoyed the final act of this movie, especially the scenes with one of the crew trapped, hanging onto the grille of an 18-wheeler, getting shot at with a 12 gauge. So if I had to sit through some mediocre undercover cop story to get that stunt work, so be it.
Let’s take a second and talk about the non-character characters in this movie – the cars. I am as pretty far away from being a car guy as a guy can get. Whenever I’m at a party (HA!) or some sort of get together and someone starts taking about car stuff, I glaze right over just as I would expect them to if I started describing the strategy behind my newly constructed Magic deck or the decades old, out-of-print Doctor Who novels I collect. Car’s just aren’t my thing and because of that almost all of the car-talk went right over my head. I don’t think that hampered my enjoyment of the movie on the whole but I probably would have given many more “manly nods of approval” if I’d understood any of the techno-babble. Most of the cars and their designs (along with many other aspects of the film) felt like they were products of the era in which this movie was made – the early 2000’s (or even 90’s hangover in some regards). However I will say that Dom’s Charger was dead sexy….. you don’t have to be a car guy to see that!
Whenever I heard people talk about the Fast and Furious franchise, whether it was on Screen Junkies’ Movie Fights or on Collider Movie Talk, it was always said that at it’s heart this franchise is about family, so while watching I made sure to look for the beginnings of that. As Brian and Dom, start to become friends and trust each other, you can see the bonds of brotherhood forming, especially after Brian saves Dom from being arrested after the big street race. in the first act and you can feel the hurt Dom feels when his crew leaves him behind. This sense of family continues to build throughout the middle of the movie until Brian is eventually forced to reveal himself as an undercover cop. Now I doubt Vin Diesel will ever win an Oscar, but I will say I definitely felt the betrayal in Dom in the particular scene. You see a man who allowed a stranger into his home, allowed that stranger into his family, opened up to that stranger sharing the tragedy he went through when he lost his father, and trusted his sister’s well being to that stranger, suddenly realize that stranger is not at all who he thought he was.
As I said, I mostly came in to this movie not knowing what to expect and after seeing it, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by “The Fast and the Furious”. It is far from a perfect movie but I found myself buying into the story and the characters and even though I’ve heard this franchise get’s worse before it get’s better, I am looking forward to checking out the next movie, “2 Fast, 2 Furious”. Stay tuned for a review on that one in the next day or two.
Until next time, Thank You for reading and….