There are no exploding heads in Fast Company, no penile growths or malformed fetuses or vaginal stomach slits. Not a single vaguely sexual bodily penetration. Nothing at all, in fact, to identify the film as being the work of body-horror specialist David Cronenberg. Released following Shivers and Rabid, Fast Company is perhaps the only film in Cronenberg’s vast filmography to lack all of the easily identifiable themes and motifs that traditionally mark his work. The only thing Fast Company says about Cronenberg the person and artist is that the dude really, really likes drag racing. Auteurists should probably look elsewhere.
Fans of well-crafted B movies, on the other hand, will be right at home. Set in the world of corporate-sponsored drag racing, Fast Company deals with a team of racers led by Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (William Smith) as they struggle against a rival driver (Cedric Smith) and the team’s evil corporate overlord (John Saxon). The film doesn’t go anywhere unexpected (Johnson must maintain his integrity in the face of his enemies’ increasingly shady and violent attempts to stop him), but Cronenberg keeps it chugging entertainingly along.
His compositions are characteristically crisp and muscular, the editing sharp and rhythmic. The racing scenes are never less than thrilling because Cronenberg utilizes unusual camera angles and techniques, including frequent inside-the-car and point-of-view shots, to increase tension and put the audience inside the driver’s headspace. And even if the extra-racing scenes are never that adventurous, the film’s cast of B-movie character actors turns in consistently strong, pulpy work.
There’s not much subversion in Fast Company; unlike in Cronenberg’s Crash, the cars don’t function as metaphors for the inhumanity of modern society or for its characters’ violent sexual urges. They’re just cars, powerful and loud, that look cool and go fast. And in Cronenberg’s hands, that’s almost enough.