The Fast and the Furious is aptly titled. It careens, it screeches, it smokes. It delivers what the previews promised: a no-brakes, pulse-pounding, ear-splitting, sex-charged car-racing flick. Director Rob Cohen (The Skulls) has helmed a technical gem. Furious is vividly shot and edited; the computer-designed wizardry is awesome; costumes, sets, locations –everything technical is top-notch. (The truck hijacking scene near the end of the movie is one of the best action scenes in recent memory.) Furious accomplishes what Sylvester Stallone’s Driven failed to do (despite its equal technical virtuosity): It reveals why street racers do what they do, why they spend their whole lives buying, fixing, and re-fixing cars for a 10-second adrenaline rush in races that don’t even get televised. Furious does this by emphasizing the details —zooming in, intercutting, animating, amplifying the myriad intricacies of computer-controlled, fuel-injection import race cars. The result is so intense that the cars seem to take on the mythic proportions of unnamed speed gods. Brian (Paul Walker, The Skulls) is the good-looking stranger (who’s really an undercover cop) trying to wheedle his way into the street racing mini-empire of Dominic, a charismatic ex-con, played by Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan) in a gritty, shaved-head performance that will likely catapult him onto Hollywood’s A-list. (Bruce Willis, you’ve been warned.) In the testosterone-heavy tribes of street-car racing, women are usually running on empty. There’s pouty-lipped girl racer Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Girlfight) and Dominic’s pretty kid sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, The Invisible Circus), who spurns tattooed crazy man Vincent (Matt Schulze, Boys and Girls) in favor of the blonde newcomer. Menacing everyone is the horde of trigger-happy Asians on their crotch-rockets, led by Johnny Tran (Rick Yune, Snow Falling on Cedars). The basic plot is this: Three unknown racing demons have been staging daring high-speed truck-jackings, making off with millions in stolen merchandise. The truck owners are so enraged they threaten to take matters into their own hands. Just what the nation’s highways don’t need are armed vigilantes in 30-ton trucks, so the LAPD/FBI must solve the crimes with all due speed and the pressure is on Brian to identify the criminals. Too successful in his undercover persona, Brian not only falls in love with Mia, but finds himself bonding with Dominic — sealing his loyalty more strongly with each successive gut-wrenching race and putting both his career and his ethics on the line to defend him. To its credit, Furious makes no pretensions to high art or even good drama. The story is merely a paint-by-number, morally compromised thread that links the racing scenes together. After two hours of sitting on the edge of your seat, though, you don’t give a hoot about dramatic worth — you just want to burn rubber on the way out of the parking lot.
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