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The Fast And The Furious

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Of Gone In 60 Seconds' many flaws, unfaithfulness to its source material was hardly the least. A remake of a 1974 B-movie that piled every motorhead fantasy of cars and collision into one film, 60 Seconds played as though director Dominic Sena was ashamed of its origins. By slicking up the action and story, he lost any sense of danger or excitement. For a car crash to look like a car crash, it can't appear to have been choreographed by a computer months in advance. Though far from an unqualified success, The Fast And The Furious gets this and enough other details right to make it a welcome return to B-movie values. Set in the world of underground L.A. drag-racing, The Fast And The Furious stars the inscrutable Paul Walker as an aspiring racer eager to move up in the world by getting close to the scene's king, the volatile but charismatic Vin Diesel. Walker loses his first race, presented as an activity only slightly less reality-bending than Keir Dullea's final trip in 2001, but wins Diesel's respect by rescuing him from the police and standing up to some cycle-riding Vietnamese toughs. Walker's ascent seems assured, until the film begins to address the racers' involvement in a string of local truck-jackings. Like Keanu Reeves in Furious' most obvious source of inspiration, Point Break, Walker under-emotes while slowly gaining respect for his outlaw mentor, reluctant to suspect Diesel of the worst as he moves deeper into the world of breakneck motor sports and backyard barbecues, and begins romancing Diesel's jealously protected sister (Jordana Brewster), lest the audience get the wrong idea. Better equipped to deal with the workings of nitro-injection systems than human emotions, director Rob Cohen's film grows less assured the more time it spends with its characters, particularly through its dull middle section. It does earn points for trying, however, and while Walker is a cipher, Diesel has enough personality for both of them. With an unbroken string of commanding performances stretching back to Saving Private Ryan, he's firmly established himself as perhaps the most reliable bald actor since Yul Brynner. The action sequences are of far less variable quality, with one in particular featuring some of the most elaborate vehicular stuntwork since The Road Warrior. Those contain a real sense of danger, a quality seemingly unavailable to most big-budget films. Flaws and all, The Fast And The Furious benefits from the feel of grit on rubber.