For a franchise that latterly revolves around huge international heists and globe-spanning adventures it’s sometimes easy to forget that The Fast and the Furious started as a simple street racing film. Proving an unqualified success, it is now one of the longest-running and multi-parted film franchises that continue to draw people into cinemas with the promise of high-octane action, car chases and soap opera melodrama.
LAPD officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is charged with infiltrating a notorious street racing gang lead by ex-convict Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). After saving Toretto from the police, O’Connor finds himself lured into the world of underground drag races as he gets closer and closer to finding proof that Toretto’s gang held-up semi-trucks and scored over $6m in the process. However spending as much time with the adrenaline junkies proves a lure for the young police officer and he slowly finds his loyalties wavering.
Loosely based on a magazine article about street racing called ‘Racer X,’ The Fast and Furious was something of a revelation during its original release. With former action stars retiring or running for Government office and comic book films not quite fully mainstream, there proved a gap for a new breed of action hero. Step forward former The Young and the Restless actor Paul Walker and muscle-bound hard man with the soul of a poet Vin Diesel. Their easy chemistry ignites the screen and forms the centre of what would become a huge franchise; it’s also their absence from latter instalments which cause the notable dip in quality.
The action is fast-paced and the narrative of The Fast and the Furious rarely slows, allowing director Rob Cohen to cover the cracks in logic and almost entirely ignore some of the more wooden acting (Paul Walker is the biggest perpetrator). There’s even time for a misguided trip to visit Oriental gangsters, which is by far the films worst section, but it keeps motoring and you’re only ever minutes away from another race and more action to wipe your memory clean. This sense of fun and excitement underpins the latter films and partly explain the love for the films that fans of the series seem to have.