Our good friend Tom Kelly has only watched the first film in the Fast and the Furious franchise, and he didn’t much care for it. But Ryan and I are big fans and have been singing the praises of the later sequels. So much so that Tom has decided to see what all the fuss is about with Universal’s biggest franchise in preparation for sequel number seven.
So the three of us got together in the Gabbing Geek screening room, popped some corn and watched 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. We followed the viewing up with a little chat…
tomk: Man, the testosterone dripping off this movie is something.
When the first movie hit home video, I did watch it all of once. And, truth be told, I didn’t like it. Having watched it a second time, well, I still didn’t much like it. I find it a bit hard to believe this movie somehow spawned seven sequels (and counting) and went in the direction it did. This first one seems like a warmed over retread of Point Break without the camp of anguished Keanu shooting a gun into the air. Vin Diesel is basically Vin Diesel, and with him is the generic pretty boy Paul Walker, the perpetually scowling Michele Rodriguez, and the well-there-she-is-I-suppose Jordana Brewster, Maybe it’s just I never was much of a car guy, having little to no interest or knowledge in racing, but seeing as how this movie didn’t seem like much, maybe you guys can understand why I never watched another one after this. I’m fairly certain the next two (particularly Tokyo Drift) are a bit dire, but the series does get better, right?
jimmy: Tom, are you sure you’re not dead inside? How could you not like this movie?
tomk: Dead inside? That’s a distinct possibility.
jimmy: I kid. I was actually a little surprised by how much of the movie isn’t street racing. That aspect is almost completely removed in the later sequels, but while it was a big element here, it wasn’t the only thing. There was still groundwork laid for the characters and relationships that would carry on, and even the precision car driving and heists that would become more the bread and butter of the franchise.
tomk: Well, the car stunts were amazing. There just didn’t seem to be that much of them in the grand scheme of things. I just didn’t see what made Diesel’s character someone so charismatic that everyone would want to be his buddy enough for a cop to toss his career away like Brian did.
jimmy: Fair enough. And it’s not really until the 4th movie that that stuff really comes into play. Diesel doesn’t factor into 2 and 3 and Brian is only in 2. The resurrection of this franchise after Tokyo Drift is nothing short of spectacular.
tomk: That’s what I’m hoping for.
jimmy: I won’t lie, if you didn’t like this one, 2 & 3 are going to be a massive struggle for you.
tomk: I won’t lie either… I was expecting as much. I figure those are the movies I have to sit through to get to the good stuff. And for what it’s worth, I didn’t hate this movie or anything, I just didn’t see it as anything super-awesome or anything.
jimmy: I don’t think anyone really did. It was a passable summer (released in June) popcorn flick with a 53% Rotten Tomatoes score that couldn’t even entice the lead actor or director to return for the sequel as they were making xXx.
ryan: “You want time, buy the magazine.”
Not sure if I realized it the first time watching but this time when Tanner (Brian’s boss) first spoke I went “Holy shit it’s Buffalo Bill!”. How did that guy get work after Silence?
Oh and how awesome is it that the first boost is a truck of small tube TVs with built in VCRs. That’s a million bucks, boys. Invest in that!
tomk: Yeah, high end goods that get lifted in movies don’t always age well.
ryan: Also have to love how the gang stashed their rides in a remote location…outside Coachella. Times have changed.
By the way, I have no idea how many times I’ve seen the original movie. It’s a lot. But this was the first time I ever saw the post credits scene. That just wasn’t a thing back then. Kinda shows since it wasn’t great, but that’s neat to be surprised by a 16-year old movie.
jimmy: I recognized Tanner from The Bridge…a show neither of you have probably seen.
There was a post credits scene???
tomk: Yeah, I saw it. Not much, just Diesel driving away while a voice over repeats the line of living one quarter mile at a time.
And I recognized Buffalo Bill and keep meaning to see The Bridge, so that might count for nothing.
jimmy: Season one is great. Season two…not so much. And I guess it’s back to the man cave for me to watch that scene.
tomk: I heard Canadian man caves are literal caves.
Which is rather awesome. All the coolest people live in caves. Like, er, Batman. And Captain Caveman.
jimmy: And they have real men in them.
ryan: I was surprised how well the original held up. It’s a fun movie and you can see the start of what the series became. Sure, the criminal scheme seems rather lame and there isn’t a lot of necessary precision driving other than to say “hey, look at those bad guys doing precision driving” but that’s what makes it fun to see it grow up.
Was crime so low back then that a massive operation between the FBI and LAPD was warranted over a few million dollars in stolen consumer electronics? Because it seems to me that they could just sell the houses and cars they’ve seized to get that money back.
tomk: That seems like a level of thinking that may be a bit unnecessary for a movie like this.
ryan: It’s all unnecessary. I just wish it had a bit more grounding. Like Point Break is a great comparison, but as hare brained as the core idea in PB is about infiltrating a group of surfers, at least in investigating the series of bank robberies makes sense.
tomk: True, though PB was a lot more over-the-top in every scene. Here, it mostly happens when someone is driving.
jimmy: Now I wish I had rewatched Point Break as well.
ryan: I still haven’t seen the remake but not sure I want to.
I also found it amusing that the final drag race between Dom and Brian lasts a LOT longer than 10 seconds. Especially because that keeps getting drilled into our heads about how anything slower than 10 seconds sucks.
jimmy: How ironic.
tomk: Hey, this was hardly High Noon operating on real time.
jimmy: I assume you are talking about when they are racing to get past the train. That could have been 10 seconds or less, it was all slow mo…forever. The final shot of the two cars clearing the tracks is a classic though.
tomk: It was a good shot, though I heard my dad’s voice in my head. He worked for the railroad laying track for years before he retired, and he was the guy to always say you can’t outrun a train because those things are faster than they look.
jimmy: Haha, classic.
ryan: It was more than ten seconds before they started going in slow motion.
tomk: Einstein said time slows down as you approach the speed of light.
ryan: I think you need more than 900 horse power to do that.
tomk: Well, they were pumping a lot of nitrous.
I assume laughing gas is good for laughing at the laws of physics.
ryan: And like all good comedians when NOS gets burned it turns blue.
tomk: By the by, the Drafthouse ran the Point Break trailer before John Wick 2, so naturally I remembered this conversation.
ryan: It is amusing to see the rules of vehicular heists get established in this first movie. Rule #1: You don’t stop. Nobody stops. Not the criminals, not the victims, even when stopping or at the very least slowing down would make a great deal of sense. Nope. So you better hope your car fits underneath the semi you’re stealing because if the road narrows or you need to get to the other side very quickly, your only option involves going under it and not, you know, behind it.
Rule #2: Jumping between vehicles is super easy. You really can’t miss.
jimmy: Remember rule #2 when we get to part 5 or 6 (I can’t remember which one it is right now)
tomk: That must be why my DVD came with that Paul Walker public service announcement.
But technically that wasn’t a jump. It was being flung.
jimmy: No spoilers. But yes, totally different. *rolls eyes*
tomk: I am thinking I should remember that a few weeks from now.
jimmy: Also, why did they attempt the last robbery in daylight? Is that just when the shipment was coming in? After all the secrecy, it seems a bit silly. Plus the green neon glow was totally wasted!
ryan: Yeah, I’m guessing that first job we saw where they were told what the truck said was actually the second call they got–the first being to get the cars ready and they get a second call some hours later with truck info.
I’m filling in a lot of details there.
tomk: Hey, we needed more important stuff, like seeing Dom’s charm win over Brian and Buffalo Bill not try to wear Mia’s skin.
ryan: It puts the 40 weight on its skin or else it has to say grace.
jimmy: As usual these chats get a lot into picking apart plot holes and things that made no sense. But I still enjoyed it. It still holds up for me. Not so much for Tom I guess. It’s exactly what it needs to be. How it spanned a franchise is one of the mysteries of the universal, but it has. Even the acting wasn’t bad, unlike part two…which we’ll get to soon enough.
tomk: Yeah, but I knew going in this movie didn’t work for me much the first time and was unlikely to do so this time, and the next two won’t be much better. And for a movie called The Fast and the Furious, it sure was slow and (relatively) quiet in a lot of places.
ryan: Seriously? I was thinking how well paced this was for a movie that had surprisingly few chase/race scenes. Some of the character stuff fell flat, but I think that’s the young cast. The moment when Brian has to reveal himself as a cop to Dom in order to save Vince–that’s a really good scene. And Diesel has to actually act in it, showing some conflicting emotions. Good moment.
tomk: I mostly meant due to the surprisingly few chase/race scenes. Diesel is better than I remembered, I’ll say that much. And I didn’t hate the movie. I just don’t think if I didn’t know anything about what this series became that I would have had any desire to see anymore of them.
I mean, ballpark estimate, it seems like the car chases and races only make up maybe a third of the movie tops.
jimmy: I never found it slow either. And I know it was 16 years old, but I was amazed at how young Diesel and Walker looked. In contrast, Michelle Rodriguez looks identical.
tomk: I’m pretty sure Michelle Rodriquez can only make one facial expression.
jimmy: It keeps her young.
And I went back and watched that post credit scene. Nothing special, but kinda cool to discover it after all these years and the multiple times I’ve seen this, as Ryan said.
I watched the Walker public service announcement too. Such a shame he’s gone.
ryan: Horrific how he went but strangely fitting. I haven’t seen the PSA but can imagine.
I know you can always be nitpicky with action movies, but the one thing that I thought was bigger than just obsessing over a detail was the moment Brian is caught by Dom and Vince breaking into Hector’s garage. As Brian was breaking into the garage I was thinking “Why would a cop do this? An obvious breaking and entering without a warrant–if they’re trying to make a case then getting in this way doesn’t help at all.” But he does, whatever. Then when he gets out he’s attacked and accused by Vince of being a cop.
Huh? That was literally the most un-cop thing Brian has ever done in your presence and THIS is what makes you accuse him of being a cop?
The scene is meant to set up the tension for the eventual reveal, and I get that. But the way it was done was clunky as hell.
jimmy: Hmm. Good point. Thinking way too much about it. But good point. And no one ever said Brian was good at being a cop.
tomk: Sheesh. Lawyers.
I thought Dom not figuring out he was a cop, was more unbelievable.
ryan: True. But I just want their world to be consistent. They have this MASSIVE operation. LAPD and FBI and lots of people working on this. Brian is the point person going undercover. I think it’s also implied they even modified his records. Maybe he did have a juvenile record and they left it but they also must have scrubbed any mention of Brian being a cop because Jesse, and I quote “can find anything on the Web.” So in the middle of all that for him to NOT act like a cop and get called out for being a cop because of it….sloppy writing.
jimmy: He’s undercover though. You think he’s going to go get a warrant to spy on Hector? On a related note, Brian tells them not to move on Tran until he gets some better evidence, but do they listen? No. Maybe it is to make Dom, et al, look smarter, but the cops are mostly made to look like bumbling Keystones. They are even more incompetent in part 2.
ryan: Well but they gave Brian an out by calling him–he gave them the go ahead to raid Tran. That one worked for me–it fit into the notion of him not wanting it to be Dom.
But yeah, they could have gotten a warrant to look at Hector’s garage after he ordered a ton of gear for 3 Honda Civics.
jimmy: Has anyone read the magazine article that the movie is based on? Does it have any real relevance to the movie besides “hey, these kids are drag racing suped up cars in the streets”?
I think this is it, if interested.
Going to have a read now…
ryan: Cool article. Explains why they used Civics which I always wondered about.
I wish they’d found a way to work in the bit about them not having a speedometer. That’s a good line.
jimmy: Yes, very cool.
ryan: The line about an 18-car lead was confusing.
jimmy: Agreed. I thought he was joking, but then he said he still beat him.
tomk: He never had him. He never had his own car.
I find my lack of race knowledge disturbing.
jimmy: Anything else to add?
tomk: I am hoping I enjoy this more as we go, though I know we have a few I will find a bit of a slog to start. Even Jimmy seems less than impressed by Part 2.
And Jimmy voluntarily watches cartoons where Spider-Man’s shadow has its own costume.