The Fast and the Furious

TheFastTheFuriousThe racing action thriller, The Fast and the Furious, pulls the throttle all the way open for you with great action sequences with a wide array of characters played by Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight), Rick Yune (Snow Falling On Cedars), and Jordana Brewster (TVs As the World Turns, movie The Faculty).  Rapper Ja Rule who has a small role as Edwin who gets prominent screen time in one racing sequence, but gets ignored in the remaining plot.  Ted Levine (Evolution, Wild Wild West, Silence of the Lambs, Heat) provides great support in a smaller performance as Sgt. Tanner.

Based on magazine article by Ken Li, Fast and Furious writers Gary Scott Thompson (Hollow Man story), Eriq Bergquist, and David Ayer (U-571 story) produces a marketable story with a marketable ending that only drags in a few spots.  All of the character’s motives are clearly defined, yet they are very similar several other characters to keep the audience guessing which characters are involved in some serious crimes.

Director Rob Cohen (Dragon, Dragonheart) does a great job directing this film and the editing is smooth yet quick enough to enhance the impact of the visuals (notice the movie playing on TV during an interior scene). When the biggest character revelation occurs in an exterior sequence, notice how Cohen presents it in a unique way that boosts the impact among the characters present in this key scene.

The visuals have a huge impact as the audience gets a realistic depiction of the underground street-racing world full of “10 second cars” and fierce competition.  The sound editing, special effects and cinematography add to the high level of entertainment and excitement you get from this film.  A huge share of the film’s success comes from the stunt drivers who produce some of the most spectacular moments ever captured on film.

If you pay close attention and learn the names of the strong-minded, rebellious characters, you’ll have a better time following events in the film.  Paul Walker (Cohen’s last film The Skulls and She’s All That, Pleasantville) gets the chance at a prominent role as Brian Spindler, a relative racing novice who encounters the underground world of street racing lead by a charismatic Dominic Toretta.  Diesel’s role as Toretta equals the level of his screen presence, but Rodriquez is underused in her role as the tough talking Letty.  Brewster’s role as Tia, Dominic’s sister, has some appeal, but plays more as a functional/love interest role.

Yune’s role as Johnny Tran gives the audience insight into both sides of the racing world and the law.  His character helps ground the story into reality and how street racing impacts people from the inside out.  Actions involving Yune’s bold group of racers may seem harsh to some viewers, but filmmakers justify their fate due to certain methods the group uses in their activities.

The Torettas and Letty also have an extended family-like group included Jesse (Chad Linberg), a neglected talent suffering from attention deficit disorder, an uncharacteristic Leon (Johnny Strong), and hot head Vince (Matt Schulz).  Brian gets to experience this close-knit, yet overtly dangerous atmosphere as he engulfs himself into the street racing life.

The high power rock/rap soundtrack includes musical performances from DMX, R.Kelly, Limp Bizkit, BT, Method Man, Redman, Faith Evans, Scarface, and Ja Rule.  These songs are well placed throughout the film except for chaotic placements when characters show off their cars before the first big race.  It makes sense to have several songs playing since there’s several different cars in the shots, but the transitions should’ve been smoother.  Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for language and violence.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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