Universal Pictures’ “The Fast and the Furious” almost plays like Vertical Limit, this past winter’s “Cliffhanger” on ice. At first it’s an exhilarating ride with original action scenes that quickly become routine when they are thrown at the audience over and over. A film that struggles so hard to be technically accurate, “The Fast and The Furious” forgets to be entertaining for its share of the audience that hasn’t grown up around cars — the same audience that will flock to see the film off of Paul Walker’s presence alone.
Walker plays Brian O’Conner, a man ready to prove to the city’s top streetracer Dominic Toretto (Saving Private Ryan‘s Vin Diesel) that there is more to him than just a pretty face. Although he loses a race against Dominic where the prize is Dominic’s respect, the two form an unlikely friendship when Brian saves Dominic from getting arrested later that night. It’s this friendship that soon blurs the line between family and obligation when Brian (who’s an undercover cop) starts to suspect that Dominic is the man he has been tracking in a series of hijackings and the same man he is out to lock up in prison.
Despite the fact that young viewers will see “The Fast and the Furious” to watch heartthrob Paul Walker, the true star of the film is Vin Diesel. Diesel is absolute perfection in his portrayal of Dominic, a tough yet likable streetracer. He wins over viewers’ hearts almost instantly with his charm, which makes it easy for us to relate to the strong draw Walker’s character feels towards him. Although Diesel has already been discredited as the next big action star (after all, who really wants to be the next Steven Seagal?), “The Fast and the Furious” should show everyone who thinks he’s all show elsewise. For underneath his mass of muscles lies a very talented actor struggling to make a name for himself. If “The Fast and the Furious” does nothing else, it helps Diesel stand out from the crowd.
Unfortunately, the remaining cast of “The Fast and the Furious” is as dull and unbelievable as Diesel is entertaining and realistic. Walker is as bland as ever and supplies further support for those who think he’s landing roles simply based on his good looks. Although Walker could have easily proven elsewise being in the lead role, he chooses instead to combine his performances in Varsity Blues and The Skulls to bore audiences with a performance we have already seen. Similar to the movie’s plotline, one will leave the theater wondering if Walker’s own friendship with director Rob Cohen (who directed The Skulls) blurred Cohen’s ability to direct Walker and broaden his acting horizons. Meanwhile, the talent of “Girlfight” star Michelle Rodriguez is never seen because she is trapped in a role that she should have never been cast in. Watching Rodriguez play ‘the girlfriend’ is almost as painful as watching Walker try to change moods, and it’s a shame that her talent went to waste seeing how the film so desperately needed it.
As far as the rest of the movie goes, “The Fast and the Furious”‘s unbelievable romantic subplots prevent this film from distinguishing itself from others close to it. Rather than trying to write in a few love stories to attract a female crowd, screenwriters Gary Scott Thompson, David Ayer and Erik Bergquist should have written an entertaining script that focuses on racing. The one thing that the film has going for it is its attention to detail, so why waste the script on a Driven/Gone in 60 Seconds look-alike? Furthermore, while the first and last action scenes are fresh and eye-catching, the numerous other racing scenes are as generic as they come. Granted this is a film about racing cars, but is it necessary for EVERY action scene to be a car race? At least Gone in 60 Seconds worked at making sure one race scene distinguished itself from another, which is something this film doesn’t even try to accomplish.
Sure “The Fast and the Furious” is more true to the sport of car racing than Driven. It may even crave some’s need for speed. But lukewarm performances by majority of the cast and generic racing scenes cause this action-film to halt at a dead-end. Even if you are a fan of Walker’s or Diesel’s, “The Fast and the Furious” is definitely a wait for video release.