Fast Company June 15, 2017
1 Hr., 32 Mins.
avid Cronenberg's Fast Company (1979) is a high-powered backstage drama, only the antics aren’t driven by line memorization nor fragile acting careers. They are, rather, rooted in the drag racing world, with its characters clamoring for the greatest cars, the greatest mechanics, and the greatest chances at winning. Like professional wrestling, everything is about image, victory — the wants and the needs of advertisers are often put ahead of the people actually doing the racing.
Being that it’s a no-budget Canadian B-movie made by one of the horror genre’s preeminent voices, though — Cronenberg also made the terrifying The Brood the same year — Fast Company doesn’t always deliver its apparently high-octane promises. We yearn for sizzling exchanges behind the scenes and nail-biting racing sequences on the scene, but instead we’re provided with mostly understated dramatics and action-sequences so documentary-imitating in their execution they sometimes fail to generate so much as a hair raise. It remains a mostly unwatched anomaly in Cronenberg’s career, which predominantly is comprised of brutal, shocking psychological thrillers. And it should stay that way.
It stars the aggressively macho William Smith as Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson, an aging drag race bigwig in desperate need of a career boost. Sponsored by international oil heavyweight Fast Company, one false move and the budget necessary to get Johnson a win — turns out rigging races is a common occurrence in this world — could very well fall through. Such a fact is oft shared by Phil Adamson (John Saxon), the greedy team boss who cares about not much else besides selling oil products.
This causes problems in the symbiotic relationship of Johnson and his protégé Billy “The Kid” Brooker (Nicholas Campbell). Johnson wants nothing more than for Brooker to fill his shoes when his looming retirement eventually makes way. But because Adamson is so hungry for profit, such chances seem increasingly unlikely.
The clashing of egos, predictably, occurs regularly in Fast Company. But none of the drama is all that interesting. The screenplay, co-written by Cronenberg, is too self-consciously lean for a movie that should be more than a little soap operatic. The characters, at least effectively portrayed, are too one-dimensional to generate any sort of heat. We want to care about the setbacks that take over their lives so regularly, and we want to care about their hopes, their dreams. But all is too much without temerity, and this is a movie that calls for a more excessive amount of theatrical nitrous.
Cronenberg still holds the film in high regard — he enjoyed the experience of making a movie not straight out of his dependably depraved mind — but even his most ardent fans won’t find much to savor here. Neither will unassuming viewers. You’d be better off basking in the cheapened glory of the motocross sequence from 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. C