The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Twenty years ago — has it been that long? — Paul Walker and director Rob Cohen made The Skulls together. Cohen got a deal with producer Neal H. Moritz and Universal Pictures. Looking for ideas, he asked Walker what his dream action movie would be. The answer? A mix of Days of Thunder and Donnie Brasco. After a May 1998 issue of Vibe detailed New York City’s street racing scene, they had their film. All they needed was a co-star.

After Gone In 60 Seconds, Universal wanted Timothy Olyphant but they got Moritz’s pick instead: Vin Diesel, hot off the success of Pitch Black. And then, seventy-eight wrecked cars later, we had a movie. Any similarity to the D.B. Sweeney and Charlie Sheen film No Man’s Land — which came out thirteen years before — is surely coincidental.

LAPD officer Brian O’Conner (Walker) has gone undercover to infiltrate the gang that has been stealing from trucks and disappearing. He soon makes it into the gang led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has been banned from pro racing after attacking the man who accidentally killed his father, but complicating matters is that he soon falls for Dominic’s sister Letty (Jordanna Brewster).

This movie was originally entitled Racer X (the name of the Vibe article), Race Wars and Redline, but then someone had the brilliant idea to ask Roger Corman if they could use the title of his 1955 film The Fast and the Furious. Getting paid again for a movie he already made? I can only imagine how delighted Corman had to be at the prospect.

This movie made stars of both Walker and Diesel. Waker would work with Ted Levine again — he plays one of his bosses here — in Joyride, while Diesel would refuse to be in the next few sequels to this movie.

This was a movie decimated by the critics. Actually it wasn’t until the last few movies that anyone would even admit they liked these. How times have changed.

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