If you come to The Fast and the Furious seeking thrilling racing sequences, spectacular stunts and fast cars, disappointment is imminent. Likewise, viewers in search of quality writing, plotting or acting won’t find anything here to their liking. A typical brain-dead blockbuster from Hollywood’s tired mills, The Fast and the Furious is junk food of the most low-rent variety. How the hell could it be possible to screw up a pure action movie about illegal street racing and heists that only needed to raise your adrenaline? Somehow, director Rob Cohen and the trio of writers managed to fuck it up big time, resulting not in a lively action extravaganza but rather a lethargic, joyless, pedestrian actioner unable to provide the most basic of summer movie pleasures.

Set in the seedy world of illegal underground street racing, rookie undercover cop Brian (Walker) is assigned to investigate a series a truck hijackings occurring in Los Angeles. He infiltrates a gang led by ex-con Dominic Toretto (Diesel), who’s rapidly rising to the top of the street-racing circuit. Dominic is initially apprehensive about letting Brian into his life, but soon takes him under his wing. As he continues to bond with Dominic, Brian becomes reluctant about working to put his newfound friend behind bars. The situation becomes more complicated when Brian falls for Dominic’s sister Mia (Brewster), not to mention Brian’s superiors are constantly on his back and Dominic’s best friend (Schulze) is starting to grow suspicious of the new addition to their crew.

The Fast and the Furious is essentially Point Break for douchebags, with fast cars and street racing instead of surf boards. But while Point Break had some great action set-pieces and the benefit of a few great actors (Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey included), the action sequences in The Fast and the Furious lack style, are drab and repetitious, and are simply are not as thrilling as they want to be. Not even the boisterous soundtrack can raise the pulse during the strictly humdrum, paint-by-numbers racing scenes. The slipshod script, meanwhile, resembles a daytime soap opera with its awful dialogue and conventional romantic subplot. The Fast and the Furious is absolutely riddled with clichés, resulting in a completely predictable film from beginning to end. It’s bewildering (and frankly a tad amusing) to consider that it took three writers to pen such a shoddy screenplay.

Rob Cohen was clearly lost when it came to the action scenes, but evidently he was even less at ease with dialogue-heavy moments involving the actors. It’d be erroneous to expect Oscar-calibre performances from the cast, sure, but is a little bit of personality too much to ask? Vin Diesel has the right physique for the role of Dominic, but his line delivery is tragically vanilla, and he lacks the presence of all the best muscle-clad action stars. Paul Walker fares even worse, giving a bland performance of forced intensity and contrived line readings. Walker has proven to be a solid actor on a number of occasions (see Running Scared), so it’s a shame that he’s so weak here. Even Keanu Reeves was stronger in Point Break. The supporting cast is no better, with a forgettable Michelle Rodriguez and an even worse Jordana Brewster who makes no impact at all as Walker’s love interest.

All Rob Cohen needed to do was keep the action coming, the adrenaline levels high, and the cars zooming past. But The Fast and the Furious fails to fulfil these requirements, and only shows signs of coming out of its filmic coma for the climax (or at least the first climax); an admittedly serviceable botched truck hijacking. It’s not as thrilling, perilous or exciting as it would’ve been in defter hands, but it’s still an entertaining enough sequence, showing a shred of evidence of what the film had the potential to be. Such a set-piece in such an awful movie is akin to stumbling upon a puddle of muddy water in the middle of the desert – not entirely satisfying, but beggars can’t be choosers. Too bad, then, that the sequence is followed by more trite melodramatic nonsense, concluding on an eye-rolling note which leaves room wide open for countless sequels. The Fast and the Furious was just meant to be a trashy, fun B movie, but even a typical low-rent direct-to-DVD action flick with Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren has more thrills than this…

2.2/10