What I really think about The Fast and the Furious

So I watched The Fast and the Furious the other day on DVD. I remember vividly when it came out in theaters. I remember not being even slightly inclined to go see it even though I have a love for automobiles. I'm glad I didn't waste the money on seeing it in the theaters. Not for the filth that was portrayed on screen, but for missing out on the after-movie burn-outs in the theater parking lot with every bumfuck hick wannabe street racer trying to show off how he can be Furious too. I heard it was mostly the high school Chevy Beretta crowd; you know who you are.

Getting back to the other day I was at the video store looking for something to watch on a boring evening and came across a shelf full of unrented The Fast and the Furious DVDs. Imagine that, only a few were rented. Maybe the rush was the week before? Anyway I decided I best not rant about a movie I had never seen so I picked it up and headed home. I felt a little guilty walking up to the desk to rent the movie, almost a dirty feeling like when renting porn. I guess I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

I got home and popped some popcorn and popped the movie in to the DVD player. Right away my aural senses were shocked by what sounded like real sports cars, but there were all these black and white effigies of real cars whizzing across the screen. My stomach rumbled slightly. Enter the first scene where these Hondas hijack a semi. For some reason I wasn't sure if this was some sort of practice gig for the guys in the Hondas since the truck driver didn't seem to put up much of a fight until the guy was inside the truck. Excuse me but if someone pointed some sort of trident gun at me and shot out a window with it I'd be pretty excited. I bet I'd even stand on the brakes to shake loose those bumblebees on my tail. What are they gonna do, run my 18 wheeler off the road? And when someone hooks into the passenger side with that trident thing why would I not be hitting the brakes again? Wouldn't that little toy gun pop right out of the guy's hands? To be the devil's advocate I'd probably not go through all that trouble to take out a rig. I foresee some sort of roadblock or slowdown and when the trucker stops you just have someone shoot him in the head. No fighting back like that. Quick and painless death too. Or maybe the movie was trying to portray criminals as not being all that bad.

I noticed that after that scene I had forgotten to eat that handful of popcorn I had picked up at the opening credits. I let it fall back into the bowl. I was then treated with a scene which introduced the main character as a bit-part QB of his high school football team. Oops, wrong movie. And what was with that scene in the diner? I'm still shaking my head trying to figure out how that scene works to introduce the main cast of characters. It was like someone took Tolstoy's idea of character introduction in War and Peace and blew it out his nose onto paper! Fortunately this wasn't so bad.

Soon we get to the point where the rice cars make their debut and we're shown some West Coast warehouse district where maybe 100 rice cars are meeting up. A few of them even had work done under the hood. I've found that most flashy cars like that don't have the balls in the sack, as they say. Then it's off to the races where these punks commandeer a whole street to play their speed games. Hasn't anyone told them that there are tracks that you can use that even have timing systems and cost about as much to use as a sheet of stickers for your car? I guess not. Away they go down the street. Must have good roads in that part of the country else those lowered cars suffer from some severe cases of bumpsteer. They fly down the road reaching speeds of 140mph, which honestly I could hit in my RS4 wagon is less time than it takes them. Then the most appalling thing happened. The main guy's car started talking back to him saying "manifold pressure danger" or some damn thing and then proceeded to blow out bolts on a floor panel! A floor panel for chrissakes! Why would a bolted floor panel give way due to high manifold pressure? I burped up a little bit of lunch at that one. And then enter the police. With about 2 dozen cruisers and a helicopter versus almost 100 rice cars you'd think the police would have stopped a few cars right off the bat. But no, these nicely choreographed lines of cars eak their way out around the police cruisers who seem more interested in making a show than impounding cars and generating revenue for their station. If you're gonna call out the chopper than you had better make some arrests! And what's with the green car getting away? That officer would have called for back-up, and in the reverent words of Mr. Elwood Blues, "you can't outrun a Motorola."

Some more boring stuff goes by before I'm attacked by a scene with a Supra beating a Ferrari 550 Maranello (if memory serves me correctly). For once I'm looking forward to seeing something remotely resembling realism in this movie. Not to be outdone the Ferrari proceeds to get his ass kicked. By a Supra?! What part of mid-mounted RWD doesn't this movie understand? Even with the weight that Ferrari is putting 485hp to the ground and tops out at 200mph. But I tell myself this is just to fluff up the demographic for this movie and not to degrade Italian automakers at all. It was at this point I was glad I had brought a bowl with me to watch this movie.

I'm not sure what this whole thing with the drag meet was supposed to be. Where I come from you're always supposed to wear a helmet when doing drags or any other sort of amateur racing. With the security at this event I was expecting it to be a sanctioned event of some sort. No helmets were worn and it made me wonder why the security guards even bothered to break up that fight. Even though it's a big, open stretch of nothing helmets should still be worn. It was at this point I noticed that drivers were either not wearing seat belts at all or wearing full racing harnesses with no cage in their car. This leads to people being "smished" when their car rolls over and the roof caves in. The point of a shoulder harness in regular cars is to allow you freedom of movement to bend to one side in case the roof collapses. A racing harness would hold you to using your head as a secondary roof support and is not a very good practice. The Supra had a hoop for the roof but was still not a sanctioned cage by any means. It's OK though, Darwin would be proud.

Somewhere in there is a scene where the truck driver strikes back. Unfortunately the trucker was not a very good shot at the one-handed shotgun event or else his targets would have been smeared across a 1/4 mile stretch of road and not making very good trap speeds. Again I wonder why the movie portrays truckers to be so helpless. I think truckers are cool; treat them with respect on the road and they'll treat you well in return for the most part. Try to hijack them and... well almost every trucker I know is armed. I don't see why this is a new thing.

On the movie goes from there. I kinda laid back in my nauseous stupor for the rest of the movie. The last straw was the last scene with the Supra holding up to an old Charger. The Charger may weigh twice as much but once the speeds reach over 60mph that old piece of metal is going to spit through gears faster than the Supra can watch. I'm not a big fan of muscle cars either, but pay respect to where respect is due. That was just grossly fake. The movie ends with the good badguy getting away and thus showing the kids that being bad really doesn't have to be such a bad thing. I could just imagine them leaving the theater after that and tearing out across town to try to show everyone that they're faster than they are, even though 99% of those people they thought were racing them were middle-age folks going back home after a late day at work. Pitiful.

I humored myself and watched the making of the film documentary. I'm amazed at what films have become nowadays. Once upon a time when we wanted a movie with car chases the chases were much more real. What happened to real race cars like in Gran Prix? What about using real streets like in The French Connection? They may not be as fantastic to viewers, but they're leaps and bounds more realistic and, therefore, far more believable and exciting. I remember a remark by the director of The Fast and the Furious during the documentary about how he liked getting the actors into the car scenes and not just stuntmen. Didn't anyone ever see Ronin? In that movie all the car scenes are done with real cars at real speeds. Outside shots are driven by veteran Le Mans drivers while shots from inside the car are done with the cast in the cars. Sometimes fake steering wheels were used to show the actor driving the car while the professional was on the other side really driving the car as fast as it seemed to be going. Also some of the actors even do their own stunt driving! Skipp Sudduth did a fantastic job throwing that Audi S8 around like it was a rally car during the big chase scene! And even more magnificent was the portrayal of people buckling up while doing these chases because it would likely save their lives in the event of a wreck. If the characters of The Fast and the Furious and Ronin ever met up on the streets the kids from The Fast and the Furious would have been schooled by a nitrous-toting 4-door boat and an old-school Mercedes before being brutally executed for asking "What's in the case?".

And what's this "noss" thing they were talking about during The Fast and the Furious? I think I remember them looking at NOS kits after using that word. NOS stands for Nitrous Oxide Systems and is a standard in nitrous kits for automobiles, not a word. There are other makers of nitrous systems. I've never heard it referred to as "noss" and never will refer to it as such. But of course pop culture will reign supreme and force its use on further generations of enthusiasts. Burn in hell NOS-boi.

~Ed

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