The Fast and the Furious

          If you're one of the minority who thought DRIVEN was a terrific
  film, then you may want to check out
  which attempts to get inside the world of drag racing. If on the other
  hand you felt
DRIVEN was a piece of dreck, you still may want to see
   THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS if only to appreciate the literary qualities
  in Sylvester Stallone's script. Actually, that's perhaps being a bit too
  harsh, but the three credit screenwriters -- Gary Scott Thompson (who
  provided the story for the awful
HOLLOW MAN) Erik Bergquist (who
  picks up his first credit) and David Ayer (
U-571) -- who adapted
  Ken Li's article from
Vibe magazine won't have to worry about
  clearing space on their shelves for any statues. The paint-by-numbers
  screenplay (which elicited derisive laughter from the audience of
  the screening I attended) sketches the details in fairly broad strokes.

          The plot centers on Brian (Paul Walker, in typical Southern
  California golden boy mode) who is actually an undercover cop trying
  to get information on a series of truck hijackings occurring on California
  freeways. In order to achieve his goal, he hangs out at a rundown
  diner that's managed by Dominc Torretto (Vin Diesel, still a powerful
  screen presence despite the weak script) and his sister Mia (Jordana
  Brewster, sultry and appealing). Dominic is the top dog of the drag
  strip and Brian attempts to curry favor with him, despite the objections
  of his posse that includes tough girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, whose
  performance here indicates that
GIRLFIGHT may indeed have been
  a fluke), strongman Vince (Matt Schulze, cast to type), computer
  geek Jesse (Chad Lindberg channeling Giovanni Ribisi) and Leon
  (Johnny Strong, who in spite of the actor's last name barely registers
  as a character). For good measure, there are also leaders of an
  Hispanic gang (Noel Guglielmi) and a motorcycle riding Vietnamese
  gang (model-turned-actor Rick Yune). After much wasted time and
  plot complications -- like a romance between Mia and Brian -- the
  film peters out, leaving the audience feeling more cheated than
  it deserves.

          The direction by Rob Cohen, whose resume includes HBO's
THE RAT PACK and movies like DAYLIGHT and THE SKULLS, is
  serviceable at best. There are repetitious shots of drag races, although
  one sequence involving a heist does have some of the necessary tension,
  although it owes a great debt to every other car versus truck scene
  from TV and the movies. (The textbook example remains Steven
  Spielberg's TV movie
DUEL.) In several other instances, it appears
  that he and the film's editor, Peter Honess put the footage in a
  blender and pushed "pulverize." The result is a jumbled blur, overlaid
  with a pulsating hip-hop score.

          Under these circumstances the actors get lost amid the sound
  and fury, albeit with eye candy for both men and women. Females in
  the audience can ogle the musculature of Walker, Diesel and Yune,
  while the men can enjoy seeing Brewster and Rodriguez in skimpy
  clothing. The actor try gamely to make something of the dialogue,
  but Walker has been shown to better advantage in supporting roles
  as in
PLEASANTVILLE while Diesel struggles to make a believable
  character but is undermined by the script's triteness. Brewster has
  an appealing quality (the camera loves her) and she has certainly
  grown as a performer since her early days on the daytime drama
  up to little but a mindless popcorn action flick. Although it tries
  to win the race, it ends up crashing into the sidelines.

                          Rating:                 D
                          MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for violence, sexual content
                                                          and language
                          Running time:       106 mins.
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.