6. The Fast and the Furious
By the time the fourth or fifth movie rolled around, the 2001 original seemed positively quaint. Viewed today, with F9 in the rear-view, it’s practically prehistoric.
Armed with a modest $38 million budget – compared to F9′s $200 million – a largely little-known cast and the workmanlike directorial hand of schlock peddler Rob Cohen, it’s easy to imagine a world where The Fast and the Furious was a one-and-done cult classic.
Yet it managed to tap into a zeitgeist that hadn’t been satisfactory represented on screen at the time – and really, not since – of petrolheads who love their cars as much as their flesh-and-blood romantic interests.
Stealing TV-VCR combos may seem laughable now, but the film’s emphasis on practical vehicular stunts – particularly driving cars directly underneath semi-trucks – and charmingly shameless reprise of the Point Break formula have lost little of their lustre. 20 years ago they made the film sheer catnip to audiences to the tune of $207.3 million worldwide.
There’s actually a lot less racing and action here than you probably remember, but Cohen and his trio of screenwriters – including filmmaker David Ayer – delve deep enough into the underground street racing subculture that few are likely to much care.
The colourful cast of characters doesn’t hurt; there may not be many truly great actors among the bunch, and the ridiculous dialogue doesn’t help, but the chemistry between them is ludicrously entertaining, leaving no scrap of melodramatic cud unchewed.
Despite the occasional over-incidence of goofy motion-blur CGI during the otherwise spectacular nitrous oxide driving sequences, this has aged far better than you’d reasonably anticipate and even holds up far better than several of the sequels. The deference towards more practical driving means the movie’s 4K transfer is eye-wateringly impressive at times, and exceptional sound design will give anyone’s surround sound system a healthy workout.
It’s an unmistakable product of the early 2000s with its of-the-moment soundtrack – including, most bizarrely, use of Dope’s “Debonaire” during a SWAT raid – and the cringe-worthy use of a certain homophobic slur will make contemporary audiences wince. However, most of the series’ well-trod hallmarks are already there in abundance; the BBQs, the familia, and yes, the Coronas.
Few will turn to this or any of the sequels for nuanced storytelling, but between its charming, impossibly attractive cast, stunning practical stunts, and unapologetic commitment to melodramatic cop-show froth, The Fast and the Furious holds up better than you might expect.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
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