RELEASED in 2001, The Fast & The Furious not only kicked off an enduring and lucrative film franchise but inspired a whole generation of car fanatics. While the later films in the franchise moved away from cars and more towards generic action, the impetus for this inaugural outing came from a Vibe magazine article from the late 90s titled ‘Racer X’, which chronicled the illegal late-night street-racing scene in New York City that was dominated by Japanese cars.
VEHICLES: 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse, 1993 Mazda RX-7, 1970 Dodge Charger R/T, 1995 Honda Civic Coupe, 1995 Volkswagen Jetta A3, 1996 Nissan 240SX S14, 1997 Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R, 2001 Honda S2000, 1994 Honda Integra, 2001 Ford F150 Lightning
STARS: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Matt Schulze, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Noel Gugliemi, Ted Levine, Ja Rule, Thom Barry, Reggie Lee, Johnny Strong
DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen
ACTION: Loaded with action from start to finish – including drag racing, police chases, cars jumping, explosions and plenty of nitrous
PLOT: Undercover cop Brian O’Conner infiltrates a notorious street-racing gang to investigate a spate of truck hijackings by street-racers, but he is torn when he discovers his crew is the one at fault
AVAILABLE: DVD, Netflix, internet download
The film follows undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Walker), tasked with infiltrating Dominic Toretto’s (Diesel) street-racing gang to find out who is responsible for the multi-million-dollar truck hijackings in Los Angeles. O’Conner attempts to win his way into the gang by racing Toretto’s Mazda RX-7 in a street drag with a Mitsubishi Eclipse. To reflect the customisation trends of the time, the cars are plastered with stickers, bodykits and neon lights. Despite losing the race – and his car – O’Conner still manages to talk his way into the group.
Brian’s wrecked Eclipse gets replaced by one of the most iconic cars from the franchise, a bright orange Toyota Supra. Its appearance in this film is arguably what led to the Supra becoming one of the cult icons of the Japanese car community, influencing countless young fans.
The racing action continues at the Race Wars event at an abandoned airfield, but things soon go sour during a truck hijacking by Dom’s crew, forcing Brian to reveal his identity.
The film then kicks up a gear with multiple car chases through the streets of LA, with both the Supra and Dom’s Charger sliding and jumping their way through traffic. The two men finally settle their differences in a drag race, with their cars hurtling towards an oncoming train – with nitrous hits and downshifts galore, something that’s become a signature of the franchise.
Even if it is designed to appeal mainly to teenage boys on school holidays, there’s plenty in The Fast & The Furious for others to enjoy – particularly if you’re a revhead. The basic-but-functional storyline is really there to frame the racing action, and it’s the latter that makes the movie worthy of its reputation as a classic; it comes as no surprise that it has become a favourite amongst car fans.
ALTHOUGH riddled with technical inaccuracies (think ‘MoTeC’ exhaust), The Fast & The Furious did for the US street-racing scene what American Graffiti did for hot rods in the 1970s: it created a whole new generation of car nuts. The film’s mix of on- and off-street drags, illegal dealings, explosions and high-octane tension certainly delivers on the promise of its title.