Nov. 13, 2018, marked five years since Paul Walker passed away from his horrific accident as a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT. Every year, that anniversary always makes me nostalgic for the first "Fast and the Furious" movie, aptly named "The Fast and the Furious." The original movie is now seventeen years old, which means it could drive a car. Well, that is, if it were human, and passed a series of tests. So how has the original aged? Well, if you read the title already, you know I tend to think it’s aged pretty well. Let’s dissect the original film a bit and find out why.
Some movies don’t age well — and when you revisit them years later, it’s not quite the same. They’re either not quite as exciting, or funny, or thrilling, or, well, as good as you remember them. For me, that hasn’t been the case for what was our first look at a now quite lengthy franchise. From the casting to the mix of heist-thriller and street racing, it’s still a great movie that stands up to the test of time.
The plot was fairly simple: the trailer told us up front that Brian was an undercover cop, but you, the viewer, don’t get let in on that fact until well into the movie. Prior to that, we know there is some Honda Civic-based hijacking going on, but our hero is busy sorting out his modified 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse and enjoying a nice tuna sandwich, hoping to get the girl. He’s just like us! Later, as he’s been arrested and led into the Hollywood mansion that the cops are running their operation from, we find out that street racer and speed shop employee Brian Earl Spilner is actually police officer Brian O’Connor. Walker will always be O’Connor to me (well, and Lance Harbor from Varsity Blues … ) and the rest of the cast did exactly what was needed of them. It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it worked.
I won’t bother retelling the story, as I’m sure we all know it by heart. I think that a key element to the original "Fast and Furious" is that, in a movie focused on cars, the director made sure that, while they were front and center, they acted as the supporting cast instead of being the only stars. I can think of several fast car focused movies where an amazing array of cars overshadowed what was in reality a pretty bad movie — "Need For Speed" comes to mind, and I could name some others. From the beginning, Brian’s Eclipse, Dominic’s FD RX-7, and eventually the MKIV Toyota Supra and the Dodge Charger from the finale are part of the story.
Brian makes his in-roads with Dom and the crew at the big street race — and aside from an inordinate amount of gear shifting, its great cinema. We’ve all made a "danger to manifold" joke, it’s OK to admit it. The subsequent, and untimely, end to the DSM Eclipse at the hands of Johnny Tran and his goons means that Brian owed Dom another 10-second car. The arrival of the Supra solidifies the bond within the group and means Jesse has to overnight some parts … from Japan. After our heroes rescue Vince during the botched robbery and dispatch the bad guys (primarily using their cars), it’s time for the big quarter mile race at the end, complete with a spectacular crash by Dom in the Charger. It’s all still riveting and fun, almost two decades later.
Earlier this year, I was invited by Toyota to come out and experience the new C-HR on track at Willow Springs International Raceway, along with it’s race-bred "R-Tuned" sibling. During that trip, I had six hours I had to kill in downtown Los Angeles and that downtime turned out even better than I expected. First, I stopped by the Petersen Automotive Museum, which is located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Fairfax Avenue in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of LA. Previously known for the location of the murder of Notorious B.I.G., that intersection is now home to an amazing automotive museum.
What came next was more personal and became a bit of a pilgrimage. If you Google "Toretto’s house" it provides very clear directions to a small unassuming house in an out-of-the-way LA neighborhood. Even though it was 40 minutes away, I had to go. As I got close, I was about to turn left onto East Kensington Rd, but then I saw it: Toretto’s Market! Well, it’s called Bob’s Market now, but it’s unmistakable. Nobody goes there for the tuna, but I’m glad I did. If you’re in the area, and a fan of the movie, it’s worth a visit. And as you can see above, I found the house, as well. I had, without planning it, bought my 4-year old a scale replica of the Eclipse at the Petersen Museum, so that became part of the backdrop for what turned out be a great trip to check out some of the real-life sights of a great movie.