zoom, zoom, zoom
All-style, no-substance cop show. And it works.
By Dan Jewel
Everything you really need to know about “Fastlane” happens in the breathtaking opening minutes.
You’ve got your music blaring from band-of-the-moment The Vines; your beautiful woman rubbing her hands all over a cop, ostensibly probing for a wire; your slow-motion shoot-out; your fast-motion car chase; and more visual pyrotechnics than Macy’s on the Fourth of July.
The pilot episode of this new Fox series, debuting tonight at 9 p.m., sets up the premise without bothering to get bogged down in exposition.
After his partner is gunned down, cocky and reckless white LAPD cop Van Ray (Peter Facinelli) teams up with his partner’s brother, cocky and reckless black NYPD cop Deaqon Hayes (Bill Bellamy), to go undercover and hunt down the killer. Helping them form new identities as high-rolling L.A. criminals is Wilhelmina “Billie” Chambers (Tiffany Thiessen--Tiffany Amber Thiessen to you and me, of “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame).
The first hour is a thrilling triumph of style over substance. The ads for “Fastlane” make the show look like last year’s Vin Diesel flick “The Fast and the Furious.” But it’s more a “Miami Vice” for the 21st century, a black cop-white cop buddy show as obsessed as its predecessor with cool clothes, cars and music.
The pilot, directed by the show’s creator, the ludicrously named McG, has the same pacing and knowing sense of humor as his hit “Charlie’s Angels” movie, and it also owes a heavy debt to John Woo, with gunfights done in loving operatic slo-mo.
“Fastlane” wants to be a big-budget action movie, and it appears to be pushing the network TV envelope in other ways. There’s a jaw-droppingly explicit sex scene, and one instance of brutal violence that would be at home on “The Sopranos.” (Most of the violence is fairly cartoonish.)
And rather than safely avoiding the issue of race, the show treats it with a welcome sense of humor. Stuck in a prison cell, surrounded by stereotypically enormous black inmates, Van manages to win them over with an ’80s music trivia contest. A few minutes later, Deaqon finds himself in a redneck bar festooned with Confederate flags, and winds up charming the patrons by leading them in a country-and-western line dance.
This is a terrifically entertaining trifle.
It doesn’t mean a thing—the romance that develops between Van and Cassidy, the mysterious blonde vixen who may or may not be playing him, is meant to be a soul-awakening sort of love, but all we see is sex. Nor do we get any sense of genuine emotion from anyone else.
Still, the actors make their roles as appealing as possible. Facinelli, who appeared in “The Scorpion King” and “Riding in Cars With Boys” (and--pay attention, Fox trivia buffs--who’s married to “90210” vet Jennie Garth), bears an uncanny resemblance to a young, long-haired Tom Cruise--and possesses the same charisma and screen presence. Bellamy, a one-time MTV personality, brings energy and humor to his role.
More to the point, both actors spend a great deal of time shirtless, which says a lot about this show’s sense of priorities.
Only Thiessen’s studied, surface cool seems out of sync with the we’re-all-in-on-the-joke style of the show.
The show rarely pauses for air, and when it does, it tends to falter. Van and Deaqon spend a few scenes reminiscing about their late partner/brother, but since we never got to know him, these scenes are empty.
Every now and then a snippet of wonderfully funny dialogue comes through: When Van tries to renege on a deal, Cassidy snaps, “If I was here to get bent over and doggied, wouldn’t I be barkin’?” Can’t argue with that one. (Incidentally, Cassidy’s character appears to be written off at the end of the pilot, which would be a terrible shame. The actress who plays her, Jennifer Sky, suggests vulnerability and sexiness in equal measure, and she’s far more compelling than Thiessen.)
A word of warning: “Fastlane” tries very, very, very hard to be hip, which means some of the dialogue may be indecipherable to viewers over the age of 30. A few hours watching MTV can fix the problem. (Quick refresher course: “Off the hook” means really swell and “dawg” means pal. The show’s web site asks surfers, “Are you hot to def?” You’re on your own for that one.)
Of course, the show isn’t about the dialogue. (Good thing.)
It’s about flash and adrenaline and loud music, and the pilot episode blends all three into a seamless hour of supremely entertaining high-class trash. Here’s hoping “Fastlane” never slows down.
September 18, 2002© 2002 Media Life
-Dan Jewel is a senior editor at Biography Magazine in New York.