Slow and the Tedious
I'm not into cars. I know that somehow, and in some circles,
that makes me less of a man, but so be it. I just can't seem to get
worked up over muscle cars the way many guys do. Frankly, in the midst
of a mid-life crisis a la Lester Burnham, the last thing I ould spend
money on is a 1970 Pontiac Firebird (though, in my defense, I would
more likely buy a kick-ass home entertainment system, a fact which should
earn back some of my lost masculinity points). I don't change my own
oil, I don't tinker under the hood, and I don't drool over magazines
featuring souped-up cars with popped hoods.
A good car chase, however, is a Chevy of a different color.
A good car chase is like an exquisitely choreographed ballet on wheels
(a comparison which will further lessen my masculinity rating for some).
Whether it's Mad Max protecting a tanker or "Popeye" Doyle
racing the El, few movie thrills can compare to the rush of fast-moving
cars. There are great car chases in bad films (To Live and Die in
LA), great car chases in average films (Ronin), and car chases
that are films (The Chase, Speed). A good car chase,
in those rarest of cases, can actually elevate a film beyond its inherent
mediocrity and firmly cement its place in our cinematic consciousness
based almost entirely on the merits of the chase alone (Bullitt).
The bottom line is that I love a good car chase.
Don't blame the DP. They're blurred cause...THEY'RE
The Fast and the Furious is not a good car chase, nor does it
even so much as feature one. What it does have are lots of fast cars
that spend most of their time pulling into driveways or parked on the
side of the street, two things that fall well outside of even my liberal
definition of "fast" or "furious." The title can't
really be applied to the film's characters either, given that most of
them are either slow-witted or only mildly upset, both of which once
again fall well outside my liberal definitions.
Vin Diesel plays Dominic Toretto, a godfather wannabe of the street
racing circuit. For the first half of the film, he spends most of his
time bestowing blessings and favors on his "family," an oddball
assortment of speed freaks and wrench monkeys who literally hang on
his every word. When he speaks, he speaks in platitudes, such as, "Whether
you win by an inch or win by a mile, all that matters is that you win."
Paul Walker is Brian Spindler, a racing amateur looking to become a
made man in Toretto's organization. As one can surmise from the trailers,
Spindler has his own reasons for wanting in, though such complexities
are obviously not the film's focus.
Furious or confused? You be the judge....
The film's focus is on the car races/chases, which, unfortunately,
are too far and few between. As if that's not bad enough, none of the
film's chase scenes manage any sort of sustained tension. This makes
for excruciating movie-going, wading through 25 minutes of badly written
filler to get to the film's next minute-long chase scene. In much the
same way that a central character hits the nitrous too early in a pivotal
race, director Rob Cohen uses his best tricks too early in the film.
The first street race features the only attempts at any sort of stylish
innovation, treating us to a creative particle-size trip through the
various stages of the engine and out through the exhaust as Dominic
hits the gas on his machine. Once used, though, the style is discarded,
and the remaining chase scenes are blandly rendered with traditional
angles and cuts which inspire about as much excitement as a trip to
The true travesty in all of this is that some decent actors are left
choking on the dust. Vin Diesel, who stole scenes in Boiler Room
and virtually owned Pitch Black, struggles to look menacing while
delivering lines like, "I live my life one quarter mile at a time."
Girlfight's Michelle Rodriguez is reduced to supporting status
as one of Toretto's gear heads. The Young and the Restless alum
Walker's best scenes are behind the wheel, something which thankfully
doesn't require the delivery of much dialogue. The rest of the cast
talks shop in between looking concerned or angry.
"I live my life one quarter mile at a time," says Toretto
as he waxes philosophically. "For that ten seconds, I'm free."
Too bad the movie wasn't.
©2001 Ed Owens