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Reiew: Hanging out with highway robbers

The Fast and the Furious is an exciting action film set in a mysterious underworld of stylish criminals who are crazy about cars. They commit crimes to get money to buy nitrous-oxide and various gizmos for their engines, wage thousands of dollars on illegal drag races and somehow never lose their fashion sense or manly worldviews. Whether you can play along with this unlikely, but engaging backdrop will go a long way in determining whether you'll like this film.
Someone from this underworld has been hijacking tractor trailers in the Los Angeles area. They've accumulated 6 million in booty so far, surrounding their victims on the highway, firing a chord into the trailers' cabs and repelling inside. The truckers have organised vigilante groups. The FBI wants answers.


Underground racing legend Dominic Torretti gets in the face of police officer Brian O'Connor in The Fast and the Furious.
photo: Courtesy Tatra Film

The Fast and the Furious
(Rýchlo a zbesilo)

Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker
Playing in Bratislava at Kino Nádej
Rating: 5 out of 10

The Fast and the Furious is an exciting action film set in a mysterious underworld of stylish criminals who are crazy about cars. They commit crimes to get money to buy nitrous-oxide and various gizmos for their engines, wage thousands of dollars on illegal drag races and somehow never lose their fashion sense or manly worldviews. Whether you can play along with this unlikely, but engaging backdrop will go a long way in determining whether you'll like this film.

Someone from this underworld has been hijacking tractor trailers in the Los Angeles area. They've accumulated 6 million in booty so far, surrounding their victims on the highway, firing a chord into the trailers' cabs and repelling inside. The truckers have organised vigilante groups. The FBI wants answers.

Police officer Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) infiltrates the criminal gangs by placing second in an illegal night drag race, but it seems he likes cars more than police work: he looks star-struck when number-one suspect Dominic Torretti (Vin Diesel) treats him to a flourish of mechanic-speak after the race: "You're lucky your chrome piston didn't overheat your secondary underpinning subsystem. And next time don't let your ball bearings rattle your applied ancillary axle."

He certainly likes Torretti's sister better than police work. Or at least that's what the director insists. There is not a ball-bearing of chemistry rolling between them, but the camera cuts to them looking dreamily at each another so often that we finally accept that they are in love. Thus is born the movie's conflict: will O'Conner turn in the brother of the woman he loves?

The Fast and the Furious achieves a sort of cartoonish glory in its mythical racing underworld. I especially enjoyed a group of Chinese-American hellraisers who harass the main characters from atop shiny silver motorcycles. Their leader is a dashing psychopath with some Anglo-Saxon/automobile moniker like 'Johnny Chassis'.

The car racing and chase scenes are director Rob Cohen's crowning achievement, shot in a way that imitates the sharp turns of a finely-engineered sports-car. There is also a hint of sci-fi in these sequences, reminiscent of the sublime race scene in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, the blurred figures outside suggesting super-combustible-engine speeds.

The plot of The Fast and the Furious leads to a spectacular car-chase finale, with a few quick turns around unexpected corners for good measure. Fittingly, in a decisive scene, we get not a long-winded speech from a police officer, nor a drawn-out treatise on love, but two men, oil-stained and bruised, standing in the afternoon sun like gods of the highway. One reaches into his pocket and hands over the keys to his wheels.

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