The Fast and the Furious franchise has been around for seventeen years. Seventeen years of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and Paul Walker as the gearheads Dom Toretto, Letty, Mia Toretto, and Brian O’Connor. While the seventh film in the eight-film (soon to be nine-film) series dealt with the startling and unexpected loss of Walker, there’s no doubt that since its beginning, The Fast and Furious has been about family and gaining family through respect and the love of cars and street racing. Though the first film, released in 2001, is a stark difference from where the franchise is now.
The Fast and the Furious introduces us to Brian O’Connor (Walker), a young hotshot police officer trying to make detective by going undercover as an auto parts runner to investigate a string of high profile robberies against truck drivers on the road. In order to get close to possible suspect Dominic Toretto (Diesel), O’Connor, under the name Spilner, enters a street race against Toretto. If he wins, he gets respect and the money. If Toretto wins, he gets Brian’s car. The race doesn’t go as planned but O’Connor keeps Toretto out of jail when the police break up the race thus earning Toretto’s respect. O’Connor and Toretto’s sister, Mia (Brewster) become close and embark on a relationship while O’Connor’s superiors begin to wonder if he’s becoming enticed by this life. When it’s revealed that Toretto and his team are behind the robberies, O’Connor puts it all on the line to help the family he’s become so close to.
What can I say about this film? It’s good. It’s fantastic seeing the beginning of this iconic bromance between Dom and Brian, how it came to be, how it was tested, and how it continued even after Brian reveals he’s a cop. The chemistry and the relationship between Diesel and Walker is what really saves this film from being a run of the mill car chase film and I think that’s why the franchise has been around for so long. There’s no doubt that Walker is a good actor and Diesel has always commanded the screen because of his deep voice and his deadpan reactions. Together, they’re an unmovable force.
It’s not just Walker and Diesel who make this film. Rodriguez and Brewster really inject the needed femininity to keep this from being a testosterone-fueled affair. Letty is everything I wish I could be. She’s a mechanic, she’s gorgeous, she has Dom as a lover, she can drive a car, and she’s snarky. The writers really knew how to handle Rodriguez and her spitfire attitude and demeanor. The same goes for Brewster. Mia Toretto is the opposite of Letty but that doesn’t make her any less entertaining. Growing up in a family of gearheads have made her just as snarky and just as able around a car but she’s kinder, softer, and the woman that Brian needs to calm his reckless behavior. The Fast and the Furious really struck a great balance with their core team of four and it really saves the film from being, as I said earlier, run of the mill.
That being said, I will agree with most critics who said that the writing lacked and that there were too many plot holes in the story but with these kinds of films who really cares about the writing? I know I don’t. What matters is that director Rob Cohen knew how to stage the race scenes and the action scenes to make them pretty and more appealing. Without those race scenes and the relationships between characters, The Fast and the Furious more than likely would have fizzled and stalled out as opposed to becoming the mega-hit it is today.
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