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    Motor Trend Online


    Oct. 24, 2002

    Fastlane TV Show
    Reviewing Fox's newest crime melodrama

    Photography by Thomas Voehringer

    All good cops have a dark side -- at least in Hollywood. In "Fastlane," Fox's newest crime melodrama, two rule-busting cops are harnessed to create an undercover crime-fighting machine that operates just this side of legality. Fueled by the confiscated hardware of previous criminal enterprises, these two use their anti-social leanings to beat the cons at their own game.

    Peter Facinelli plays Van Ray, an unruly Los Angeles undercover cop who loses his partner in a bust gone bad. Deaqon Hayes (Bill Bellamy) becomes Ray's partner, reluctantly, after he exceeds his own legal authority and nearly kills him in anger. The ringleader in charge of this new rogue team is Lt. Wilhelmina "Billie" Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen). As such, she is responsible for restocking them with an endless supply of exotic cars, motorcycles, and designer watches while keeping their minds and bodies semi-focused.
     

    Another star of the pilot episode has to be the heavy directing hand of McG, well known for his music videos and recent resurrection of "Charlie's Angels" for celluloid. The Fastlane pilot possesses much of the same crafting that went into assembling "Angels" -- with stylistic sequences of quick-cut editing enhanced by a savvy soundtrack. The split screen sequence is lifted right from "Charlie's Angels."

    If this has a ring of familiarity to it, it should. A comparison to Michael Mann's "Miami Vice" is inevitable. But beyond that formula, "Fastlane" is different. It unapologetically bets the farm on action over contemplation. It is an adult, live-action comic book. Unfortunately this leaves much room for the improbable, impossible, and ridiculous. "Fastlane" uses up every inch of that space

    The four-wheeled stars, a GT40 and Shelby Cobra, are much like their female co-stars--good-looking and posed for maximum testosterone. This one is a double-header for the crash, jump, and roll crowd. "Fastlane" succumbs quickly to the bogus flying-car syndrome. There is no such thing as a crash, only ramp-assisted launches into the air. For those still reeling from the knowledge that the "Dukes of Hazzard" destroyed untold numbers of classic Dodge Chargers, rest easy. The Fastlane GT40 is a mocked-up kit car that Motor Trend personnel got a chance to see close up (see the related "Behind the Scenes" feature).

     

    Fastlane TV Show
     
     

    While the production values and action sequences cry out for the most attention, Facinelli transcends them by giving a truly inspired performance as the grieving and confused cop who must carry on to find his partner's killer. He's clearly the centerpiece around which "Fastlane" rotates. Bellamy seems hardly more than a foil for conflict and comic relief (learn how to hold an AK-47 for gosh sakes). The personal dynamics between Vondie Curtis-Hall, as Ray's original partner, and Facinelli was magical. More tension like that could go a long way in adding substance to Fastlane's action. Tiffani Thiessen, as Billie, is at the other end of that spectrum. Her lifeless demeanor as the progenitor and mentor of this team is unnatural and stalls the action with a performance sort of like "Plan-9 from Los Angeles"). Her scenes are excruciating and seem to force "Fastlane" into a retaining wall.

    Like "Vice," it appears notable stars from other media will fill a few walk-on roles. Some excellent scenes in the pilot involve a short, but hilarious, guest appearance by Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy, as well as singers John Doe and Isaac Hayes.

    As with any melodrama, "Fastlane" is a mixture of humor and calamity. Much of the humor is predictable, fueled by the love/hate partnership and racial/social differences. The violence and sexual content however is very straight forward. Slo-mo gunshot wounds seem almost cliche today but rib-breaking gut punches to a woman thankfully are not. Follow up with a hard right cross to the jaw and it's downright gratuitous. The crotch grabbing and other lowbrow sexual gestures were a bit much, but may be value-added for an enhanced "Jerry Springer" factor. Slotted in at 9:00 p.m. makes it technically primetime, but this is no family showcase. The writing is surprisingly, and thankfully, mild when compared to the onscreen action.

     "Fastlane" is a slick, trick action series. This show is intended to showcase action/adventure and forgo any thoughtful conclusions or deep significance. But being without meaning does not mean it is meaningless (although it certainly is at times). It's a TV-based, adrenaline-laced junk food for the brain, and it makes no pretense to be anything else. Anything more than that, and there is some, is a by-product. Don't try to make sense of it. Simply enjoy the ride or pass.

     

    Fastlane TV Show

     

    Behind the Scenes: FastlaneWhile shooting photos at Irwindale Speedway, for Truck Trend's "Power Trip" story in the July/August 2002 issue, we were dumbstruck when we caught sight of an original GT40 in Gulf colors. The track supervisor informed us that it was being used in a pilot for a new TV show called "Fastlane," which was being shot on the oval while TT was using the drag strip. Cool. Although TV and movie production happens everyday in these parts, they don't often include classic cars. That made it much more interesting.

    During breaks in the TT shoot, the assembled staffers perched above the track to watch the action. The rumble of the GT40 rounding the oval was musical. In the infield next to the production and support vehicles sat a bright red 1966 Mustang coupe and new silver Maserati Spyder. These guys had a good sense for automotive eye-candy.

    TT was scheduled for photo time on the oval at about noon, when the "Fastlane" crew broke for lunch. As soon as they cleared out, we slipped in for a couple of static shots. A couple of wayward crewmembers stayed behind and soon were tooling around the oval in the Maserati. They were lapping it going clockwise. Arrrrghhh. It was just...wrong. We got our shots and headed out.

    Just outside the track, we were invited to join the TV crew for some grub from the catering truck. Since the mainstay for a TT staffer is peppered beef jerky followed by a wash of warm Gatorade, a well-cooked meal was accepted with an open, salivating mouth. Man oh man, do those guys eat well! There was an embarrassment of tasty offerings that prompted multiple returns to the trough.

    Afterwards we hustled over to the #6 GT40 stunt car sitting in the parking lot for some behind-the-scenes talk with builder Steve Curle. He's built his fair share of movie and celebrity cars and expounded on the rigors of Hollywood and his great nemesis -- time. His all-hours-of-the-night creation was a fiberglass replica of #6, complete with Gurney bubble. This one would be used for the crash sequence at the beginning of the show. There was much conjecture among the TT staff about how a GT40 could be induced to roll on an oval track. Leave it to Hollywood to supply the improbable means.

    We all had a schedule to keep, so soon it was time to get back to work. Between burnouts with the Ford Lightning, the sound of rapid gunfire could be heard just over the wall. The sounds and smells were remarkably similar to a night of summer street racing in Northern New Jersey. After getting our respective shots we all headed home.

    TT returned to Irwindale Speedway again a couple days later to use the oval for some car-to-car photos. "Fastlane" had cleared out the day before. While pulling the trucks into the infield the sound of metallic crunching could be heard. Seems the "Fastlane" production supervisor failed to clean up the infield after the machine-gun scene. Many 9 millimeter and .45 caliber shell casings were strewn about the infield. The super-sticky Toyo's on the TRD Tacoma S-Runner sucked 'em up like flypaper with one .45 brass casing puncturing the tire. That was tire number two for the Taco in the same number of days.

    This all took place in February, and at last "Fastlane" is ready for release. The Fox Network will air the pilot episode on Wednesday, September 18 at 9:00 p.m. The souvenir .45 shell casing is still sitting on my desk.



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