Street Racing: Prima's Official Strategy Guide

. "The Fast and the Furious"

When an action thriller is about street racing you'd expect plenty of car chases, automotive acrobatics, a mixture of high octane and testosterone, muscle cars and muscle guys, hot women and the things that charge up a young audience. You get a lot of that here but the film has even more traction. It made an impression on at least one adult male that is way older than the target audience. Why?

There's a good love story wrapped around the manifolds and superchargers. That, and good casting elevate it above the simple exploitation level.

A series of truck highjacks has brought in a squad of undercover cops to deal with the problem and they do so by sending Officer Brian Earl Spilner (real name Brian O'Conner) (Paul Walker) to infiltrate the number one racing clan. It's led by Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Vin Diesel), the fastest and strongest among 'em. O'Conner starts his quest by demonstrating his hangup with speedy metal, then by hanging around Dom's bar, which Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) runs and bartends. And, she's a fox. And, what's a boy to do? He falls for her... hard.

But, Dom is having none of that and scoots this pretty boy off the premises with strongarming and believable threats. Not to be foiled in that manner, Spilner/O'Conner appears on the street ready to race and to earn some respect. In the course of events he loses his ride, saves Dom's life and some embarrassment, hooks up with Mia, and learns to respect Dom in ways he never expected.

But, whether because of envy, anger or frustration, some of the members of the gang begin to suspect he could be what he really is and he has to prove otherwise. He's clever but there is a showdown coming.

The racing sequences are brought off with considerable energy and as an expression of this culture but are weakened by a plot device contrived to give the races and the racers a dynamic advantage. Supposedly, whoever uses a special propellant called NOS is likely to win. Not only is every racer not using it for some inexplicable reason (it costs too much?) but everyone seems so surprised when someone does use it and tears away from his competitor at the prime moment. Are we to close our eyes to this writer's trick to make people blind to the illogic while things come out the way he wants? It sure takes the suspense out of the outcome. Fortunately, this weakness is more than balanced by human relationships that are superior in a movie about racing, machismo, and gangs.

Partly, the success of the movie rides on Vin Diesel's convincing portrayal of a charismatic gang leader with intelligence and an ability to see more than one dimension to life. We hope we'll be seeing more of him. Walker is both attractive (in a female sense) and deep enough to add interesting shading to his part in this competitive world, granting him admiration from the male side of the equation.

All in all, a better movie than one might suspect from the promotion and publicity stills and a pat on the back to director Rob Cohen ("Miami Vice" TV, "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story", 1993) for putting it together with a balanced complexity slightly outside the demands of the genre. Definitely worth a look.

Domestic gross: $145,000,000. Foreign: $65,000,000.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Comments from readers:
The movie is the best one I have ever seen.
Yo this movie was off the hook. I love all the cars action and Vin Diesel. All I'm asking for is a day to spend with him. That is it. Please send him my way.

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