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Lots of muscle, but not much plot

Review: 'Fast and Furious' runs on empty


By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- "The Fast and the Furious" is exactly what you'd expect it to be: fast, furious -- and senseless. This movie is aimed like a heat-seeking missile at Hollywood's most coveted demographic, males between 17 and 24, who have proven that -- given the right material -- they will see an action movie again and again. This, probably, will be one of them.

But they're not going to get much for their money. This pedal-to-the-metal, exhaust-spewing extravaganza has little, if any, real story line. Screenwriters Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, and David Ayer haven't really written a movie, they've followed a formula.

Start with a basic mixture of souped-up muscle cars and plenty of hot babes (wet T-shirts included), add a huge dose of testosterone, stir in lots of special effects, lather on a bunch of car races, chases and crashes, lay on a pounding soundtrack, and voila: a perfect escapist movie for kids with cash to spend during the long, hot summer vacation.

Out in the desert

The original idea for "The Fast and the Furious" came from an article written by Ken Li for "Vibe" magazine. Under cover of darkness a subculture of people, mostly ethnic young men and women, get together to race customized, high-performance subcompact cars along empty streets in Los Angeles and the outlying desert. The prize: thousands of dollars per race.

Vin Diesel stars in 'The Fast and The Furious' (June 22)

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CNN's Paul Clinton says 'The Fast and The Furious' formulaic (June 22)

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Vin Diesel plays Dominic Toretto, the charismatic leader of a bunch of lawless grease monkeys who spend their days working on their beloved cars, and their nights driving them in the highly organized -- and illegal -- races. Diesel is probably best known for "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) but his best role up to now has been in "Pitch Black" (2000), a sci-fi thriller in which he held the screen like a vise. He is once again front and center in this flick, but has a whole lot less to work with.

Jordana Brewster plays Mia, Dom's hot-to-trot little sister, and Michelle Rodriguez ("Girlfight," 2000) portrays Dom's intense girlfriend Letty. Brewster is OK in this one-note role; Rodriguez just replays her sullen character from "Girlfight."

Their main competition at the drag races is a gang of Asian drivers led by Johnny Tran, played by Rick Yune. The two gangs come to the attention of the police after a series of truck hijackings that involve high-performance cars driven by modern-day highwaymen.

Into this highly ethnic mix of characters is thrown "Brian Spindler," aka Brian O'Conner, an undercover cop and lily-white California surfer type. He's played by Paul Walker ("Skulls," 1999) in his first adult role. Walker does what he can with this part, and he's not bad. But he's woefully miscast. Putting him undercover into this group is ludicrous. You may as well just slap a sign on his back saying "COP."

A 1950s B movie

Director Rob Cohen, who also helmed "Skulls," loves exploring pop culture -- if this were the 1950s he'd be king of the B movies and packing them in at your local drive-in. He's a prolific filmmaker as both a producer and director, and he knows how to push all the buttons.

That means he's created a high-octane, rubber-burning extravaganza. However, it also has plot holes you could drive the proverbial truck through, and an ending that is totally idiotic.

Still, if you're in the right demographic, none of that matters. This movie isn't about plot, and barely about character. It's all about packing the screen with images and sounds that, the studio hopes, will pack the theaters with screaming adolescents, and young men who feel the need for speed.

"The Fast and the Furious" opens nationwide Friday and is rated PG-13.

• The drive of Vin Diesel
February 21, 2000

• 'The Fast and the Furious' - official site

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