The Fast and the Furious is an early-‘00s marketing team’s wet dream. Straight from the pages of a street racing magazine, the initial installment captured the zeitgeist of a particular sub-culture, being in the right place at the right time. It comes by way of moneyed producer turned director Rob Cohen. Its successes are part marketing triumph and part significant screen chemistry of a too cool crew breaking into the street racing scene.
It’s easy to forget the franchise’s heist DNA. It was a significantly more modest take to begin with, stories about lifting what are now vintage electronics and looking good doing it. It was about living your life a quarter mile at a time and enjoying being along for the ride. It had a fun fixation on Nitrous systems and street racing jargon, really a celebration of a culture that’ll take a medium entry street vehicle and make it race ready. It made us believe in our cars and told us, this is what they are capable of.
In the first street racing segment, the car throttles into extra-dimensionality, bending time and space like a sci-fi space warp while Brian (Paul Walker) accelerates madly. The street racing has a wild and beautiful heart that contributes a great momentum to these scenes. It has adrenaline rushes aplenty and is souped up for maximum speed.
The Fast and the Furious was Walker’s first true lead role, starring as an undercover FBI agent at its center. He breaks into the racing circuit and its seedy underbelly that packs a neat crime story underneath the hood. Family and loyalty are the resounding themes, as Walker navigates where his virtue lies between being an honest man doing the right thing and getting in with Dominic Torreto’s (Vin Diesel) inner circle, as they are both investigating the same murder. We could only be so lucky that they merge with an instant chemistry that extends from the good cop/bad cop themes from decades prior.
The truth is it’s a lowbrow affair. I think we can come back to it now with a clear head, understanding the ridiculous nu-metal as a regrettable by-product of its time and its street-racing culture as something better idealized than practiced. Yes, The Fast and the Furious remains a fun, good time. Did you love Point Break? Then you’ll find its bang-on action blueprint all over this picture. The romances are flimsy and the pacing spotty and yet it’s a satisfying time capsule. It’s still chock-full of remnants of absurdist ‘90s culture, a cartoon of whom we used to be and what we used to like.