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'The Fast and The Furious'

The Dumb & the Tedious: Hunks with heaps go at it

Friday, June 22, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

At last! To the dual adjectival-noun pantheon of "The Young & the Restless," "The Naked & the Dead," "The Bad & the Beautiful" now comes -- "The Fast & the Furious."

    'The Fast and The Furious'

RATING: PG-13 for language and sensuality

PLAYERS: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg


CRITIC'S CALL: 2 stars


Paul Walker is the fast, Vin Diesel the furious, of the two lead hunks in this boisterous car-and-crime thriller. The former is new on the garage blocks, hired as a mechanic but yearning to be a driver. To achieve this, he must prove himself worthy in a high-stakes race with the latter. If Walker loses, Diesel gets his car. If he wins, he gets Diesel's respect. A perfectly fair bet -- for a moron. But neither the bet nor the film is about brains.

It's about warring gangs of high-octane import car racers in Los Angeles. If that subculture has thus far escaped you, it involves the idolatry of "rice rockets" -- reassembled, souped-up cars with computer-controlled fuel injection from Japan, Germany and other rogue states -- for illicit middle-of-the-night racing. These boys have well-endowed engines and girlfriends, criminal tendencies in the form of a million-dollar truck-hijacking ring and undercover cops hot on their trail.

Road rage? The guy that threw the bichon frise into traffic was Gandhi compared to Johnny Tran (Rick Yune), boss racer-dude of the Young & the Ruthless Asians.

"Fast & Furious" features a flotilla of others who exemplify life's dramatic dualities. Boys and girls here, collectively, represent the Hung & the Braless. Love interests Jordana Brewster (Paul's chick) and Michelle Rodriguez (Vin's) are the Chaste & the Promiscuous. Gang member Matt Schulze epitomizes the Rash & the Injurious, while Chad Lindberg is the Harassed & the Pusillanimous. FBI agents are uniformly the Crass & the Devious. Cars range from Smashed to Luxurious. Script fraught with the Dumb & the Tedious.

Director Rob Cohen ("Dragonheart," HBO's "The Rat Pack") is deft in the action practice, as long as you don't closely examine the theory, according to which this is all a tribal quest for peer-group approval, a primal street ritual and sexual/automotive battlefield -- the latest and last extension of American car culture. I don't know how professional sociologists would consider that view for the 21st century. I know that the film's view and treatment of women would be considered enlightened for the 9th century. "Fast & Furious" is all about male bonding. It omits all the bail-bonding that would be required if the cops here were more than Keystone.

Paul Walker ("Varsity Blues," "She's All That"), a very pretty product of Acting 101, is good enough. But bald-as-a-billiard Vin Diesel ("Saving Pvt. Ryan," "Boiler Room") is much better, actually managing to inject his cardboard character with a certain credibility and pathos.

Recent criticism for excessive self-referential jesting (the Good, the Badinage & the Ugly) has been leveled at me by certain readers. One should expect that from the Dumb & the Reckless, but it has left me among the Stung & the Feckless. In conclusion, I was going to share a personal project with you in detail but now, with hurt feelings, will only allude to it: "The Fast & the Furious" has much snappier F/X and teen-sex appeal than the film in development about me and my Pontiac -- "The Slow & the Lugubrious."

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