Call me old-fashioned, but I find it irresponsible for a filmmaker and a studio to release a film that glamorizes illegal street racing. I’m fully aware of the never-ending debate as to whether the movie industry has some sort of social, ethical, and moral responsibility towards its audience, but to a certain degree it does. Illegal street racing puts lives in danger and for a film like The Fast and the Furious to portray it in the slick and cool manner that it does is shows what callous assholes Rob Cohen and Universal are for making the film.

Ok, I’m off my soapbox and I can now begin telling you how surprisingly fun The Fast and the Furious is (even though that would make me a hypocrite in light of what I just stated above). The Fast and the Furious is a fast-paced, stylish-looking, all-California B-action film that harkens back to the car chase films of the 70s, the cult classic Point Break, and even to some extent the James Dean classic, A Rebel Without a Cause. When this film came out in the summer of 2001, I never expected to like it as much as I did. In fact, I had every expectation that I would end up hating this movie. After all, with the exception of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, director Rob Cohen doesn’t exactly bring to mind top-quality cinema. It was with much surprise that I ended up enjoying the hell out of this movie and thats saying a lot given how bad this movie could and SHOULD have been.

The Fast and the Furious revolves around illegal underground street racing. The film was inspired by an article that was written about the movement, which continues today around the country. Paul Walker is an undercover cop who is sent to infiltrate a suspected group of thieves who heist big-rig trucks. The group is led by Vin Diesel, who is joined by his sister (Jordana Brewster), his girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez) and a couple of other guys. They run a garage as a front where they fix up and outfit cars to race in street competitions. Walker gains Vin Diesel’s trust and joins his gang. He learns about the underground culture and begins to personally get involved in it as well, which eventually tests his loyalty to the badge.

The story isn’t anything original. If you’ve seen Point Break, then you have a pretty good idea what The Fast and the Furious is about. Instead of surfing, you have street racing. But you know what? It still holds up as a good story. If you go into this knowing its a B-action movie and nothing more, you’ll buy into the story. This movie could have easily relied on showing the audience a bunch of street races strung together with fast cuts and fancy visual effects showing cars doing crazy shit. Fortunately, the director doesn’t show you a lot of racing and what he does show you serves the story’s purpose. The sequels, on the other hand, all made the mistake of relying too much on action and not enough on story. Now for you car aficionados who have a hard-on for rice rockets or whatever the fuck you call them, there are plenty of wheels for you to stare at. One thing this movie is definitely not in short supply of is cars.

At one time, Vin Diesel was widely considered to be Hollywood’s next big action star. His career was on a meteoric rise with Saving Private Ryan, The Boiler Room, Pitch Black, The Fast and the Furious, and the shitty XXX. However, after a string of expensive flops, Diesel’s career began to sputter and pretty soon we began to see less and less of him. He’s not the type of actor I typically care for mostly because he looks like the kind of guy who feels fine being relegated to dumbed down action movies. However, for all the tough guy facade he puts up, he’s an astonishingly good actor who commands a strong screen presence. There is no doubt he has movie star appeal with his looks, humor, and charm. Arguably, his character in The Fast and the Furious is most representative of Vin Diesel’s image.

Paul Walker was another actor I could care less about when I first heard his name and saw his face. Everything that seems to come out of his mouth sounds like its being read off a teleprompter. Walker looks like he just came off the faux reality show The Hills and now he wants to be an actor. He’s never going to win any awards for acting, but a movie like The Fast and the Furious perfectly fits him. Walker belongs in these slick, B-style action films where he’s surrounded by people who act bad, but look good. I’ll say one thing about him, though. Had Captain America been made a couple of years ago, Walker would have been the PERFECT Captain America (and for the record, I think Chris Pine should have gotten the role). In this movie, Walker is as believable as a cop as Keanu Reeves was believable playing an FBI agent in Point Break. However, you don’t see these kind of movies for believability.

One actress I’ve grown to really like over the years and who appears in The Fast and the Furious is Michelle Rodriguez. Her breakout role came shortly before she was cast in this film. It was a small indie movie called Girlfight and Rodriguez displayed a tough girl tomboy image that has since become a sort of trademark for her. She was most recently seen in Avatar, playing a role very reminiscent of James Cameron’s Velazquez character in Aliens. Here, you can tell she’s still new to this acting thing and her lines come off as wooden. However, it doesn’t really matter here because most of the actors with the exception of Vin Diesel give the same level of performance.

The Fast and the Furious is the only film in the series thats good. The two sequels that followed it were basically horseshit despite their box office success. This is not the type of movie I normally even bother to check out, but I did and I was happy I did. Its the perfect California movie with its focus on cars, hot women, and racing. Its also the kind of summer film that I don’t see as much these days as we’ve been overtaken by endless remakes and sequels. Most of you who read this blog have most likely seen this, but if you haven’t, make sure to check it out and make sure you see it with a bunch of friends.