MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Fast & Furious

Often feeling more like a video game than a movie,Fast & Furious, not to be confused with its predecessor, The Fast and the Furious, brings back the acting team that made the first film a hit and concocts a vaguely believable story about Mexican drug lords hiring street racers to zip their contraband across the border-in elaborate tunnels, which they have to travel through quickly for no apparent reason. Putting the drugs on the back of a donkey and having some old guy bring it across might take a little longer, but would probably be a lot more reliable. Anyway, the two heroes, played by Paul Walker, whose character has somehow gotten his position with the FBI back, and Vin Diesel, whose character has somehow not been caught by the FBI yet, go undercover as street drivers to bust the head drug lord and avenge the drug lord’s homicidal ways. The action scenes are energizing, and on the Universal DVD, with a nice picture and a jacked up soundtrack, it is easy enough to get wrapped up in the action scenes, admire how buff the male and the female characters, and their cars-look, and ignore the inanities of logic imperiling the story and the physics of the chases. It’s silly, but it’s watchable silly.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer is sharp and glossy, although even the action shots that aren’t enhanced by computer graphics often feel like they have been embellished thusly. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has lively separations and plenty of power. Running 107 minutes, the 2009 feature comes with alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles and a 5-minute blooper reel. There is also a commentary track featuring director Justin Lin, who talks about staging the various stunt sequences, about the story, and about working with the cast. “I remember talking to Vin, early on when we were writing the script, and I went over to his house. I remember standing by his pool, and he said, ‘So, uh, what is this film about?’ and, you know, we had the script and everything, but he was talking more about theme, and I thought, you know, it’s been fairly interesting, because for these kinds of ‘fast cars and hot chicks’ kind of films, the theme that has been driving these films has been about family. I think the exploration of what it means to have this non-traditional family. And I thought we had to kind of try to really push it forward and see what we can do, and I thought the theme for this film should be about sacrifice. The first film was about family, but at the end of the day, he took off. He left everybody. As soon as I mentioned ‘sacrifice’ to Vin, it clicked. I guess it wasn’t a hard sell because basically you’re saying, ‘Vin, you get to be Jesus Christ,’ and I think he took that well. It ended up being a great conversation.”

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon