Friday, June 3, 2011

"Fast and Furious" (2009)

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster
Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by Justin Lin
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 107 minutes

Fast & Furious (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]"New model.  Original parts."  That's the tagline that pretty perfectly sums up this fourth "Fast and Furious" movie. 

Several years after they started it all with the 'Point Break' knockoff, 'The Fast and the Furious', Paul Walker and Vin Diesel return for... well... 'Fast and Furious'. In the fourth flick in the hot-rodding franchise, Brian (Walker) is still on shaky ground after letting Dom (Diesel) escape at the end of the first film. Now he's part of an FBI task force attempting to take down a mysterious drug runner named Braga, and is making little progress. Meanwhile, Dom spends his days running heists in the Dominican Republic, trying to stay one step ahead of the law with his trusty gang of thieves, and his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

After hearing that the cops may be closer than he thinks, Dom leaves Letty and the gang, thinking that they'd be safer without him. Unfortunately, this proves a mistake - Letty is murdered, and Dom returns to the US looking for vengeance. Conveniently, it turns out that Letty was murdered by the same group of drug runners that Brian is trying to bust.

Begrudgingly, Dom and Brian team up once more, their old resentment flaring up more than a little bit, but both of them have their reasons for wanting to take down Braga.

Let's not make any mistakes, 'Fast and Furious' will win no awards come Oscar season. The script is about as pedestrian as it comes. The only thing that really matters in this franchise is the fun factor. The fun comes from how well the director can stage his action sequences, and Justin Lin does an admirable job injecting some adrenaline into the proceedings. Unfortunately, it's not as top-notch as one would hope. The opening tanker truck heist is great fun, as is a centerpiece illegal Los Angeles street race midway through. Along the way there are fights, foot chases, gunfights and explosions. But where 'Fast and Furious' needs to excel is in its car chase sequences.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of key sequences that just don't hold up. The final chase is far too laden with CGI to really impress, which is unfortunate considering that the buildup to it is fun.  The daylight part of this sequence is great, but once the cars enter the darkness of the tunnels, it takes on a level of obvious fakery that feels disappointing, even while things are getting rammed and slammed every which way.

Walker and Diesel don't seem to put much into their performances, particularly Diesel, who seems bored when he should seem badass. He gets in a few choice one-liners, but generally sleepwalks through the whole thing, which is too bad. He seemed to be having a lot of fun in the original film, and when your cast is having fun in their roles, it translates onto the screen - the audience can tell.  One gets the sense that maybe this one wasn't what Diesel had in mind for his career.  He does better in the sequel, "Fast Five." 

With the original cast back in place, it feels like a true sequel, and offers some two solid hours of fun and vehicular mayhem, if not totally consistent. If you're looking for a few good car chases, you could do a lot worse (even within this franchise).

See Also
The Fast and the Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast Five