Fast & Furious Review

I remember making fun of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift when I read its synopsis. I remember my guffaws as I was belittling the trailer. I also remember the wide-eyed smile I had when I actually saw the movie—shocked, shamed and pleased at how superior it was to the franchise that preceded it. Then I remember the first movie, the one with a trite name compared to this new one’s catchier Fast & Furious moniker. It was, as should be obvious to everyone, a blatant rip-off of Kathryn Bigelow’s action classic Point Break, but ten times douchier and half as exciting. It was made watchable only by Vin Diesel’s charismatic turn, offsetting the wooden Paul Walker (a copy of the Keanu/Swayze dynamic in Point Break).

Following a hypothetical cinematic equation, Fast & Furious should be the best one of the series, combining the leads of the original with the creative team behind Tokyo Drift, writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin. But something is amiss.

It’s 2006—an inconsequential timeline just to briefly fit in Justin Lin’s friend Sung Kang as his Tokyo Drift character Han—and FBI Agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is chasing down a notorious Mexican drug kingpin named Braga, who we’re told has moved more drugs than Pablo Escobar did in ten years. Uhh, sure. As it happens, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is murdered by this particular drug cartel, forcing Dom (Vin Diesel), who is on the lam, to return to the United States with vengeance on his mind. After a few dick-sizing clashes, Dom and Brian predictably team up once more to take down Braga. Better matched than ever—like a married couple after a longing separation period—and just as homoerotic as always. Not to worry, though, the machismo facade is perfectly maintained by Lin’s insistence to dress up his sets with roaring cars and scantily-clad tarts furiously making out with each other, less for the sexual revolution and more for the stroking of the male ego. And other parts.

Vin Diesel’s Dom no longer sports that big brother charm that made him affable in the first movie. He broods and acts angry for the entire film over Letty’s death. In the span of five years since he’s been on the run, he has turned into a super spy who can bypass international borders, outwit the FBI, accurately visualize a crime scene just by looking at tire marks, and most impressive of all, he can take one sniff of asphalt residue and determine “there’s only one guy in LA who can make this kind of mod.” Vin Diesel should play Columbo.

To say the movie is predictable is not even a criticism anymore, it’s just cold hard fact. Is Dom going to avenge Letty? Is O’Connor going to help Dom do the right thing? Will the shadowy unseen Braga turn out to be someone they already know? Will Dom survive this adventure a free man, just in time to go to Japan for his Tokyo Drift cameo? Will there be a disclaimer at the end reminding teens that the driving sequences are dangerous and should not be emulated? Come on—you know.

Justin Lin shoots action scenes and car chases better than Rob Cohen or John Singleton, but the set pieces he works with are by no means inventive. The opening is the best, despite being a repeat of the first film’s truck hijack, whereas the climatic race in an underground tunnel is as boring as it is incomprehensible to follow. What elevated Tokyo Drift were the exotic touches on the races and how the protagonist’s attraction to cars allows him the opportunity to penetrate a culture he’s unfamiliar with—all of which are absent in Fast & Furious. They had their chance with all the Latin American locales the film features, but went with ho-hum highways and deserts instead.

The drug-running plot takes away from the franchise’s engine-fetish, which was the mistake of 2 Fast 2 Furious, by far the series’ worst entry. Without that hobbyist enthusiasm, this is just a really poorly written cop movie, with an FBI office populated only by the usual stock characters: the gruff but understanding superior, the fronting by-the-book colleague, the resourceful computer expert, and of course, the loose cannon field agent. This movie’s fast. It’s definitely furious, for whatever reason. It’s just not worth the effort.

"Fast & Furious" opens April 3, 2009 and is rated PG13. Action. Directed by Justin Lin. Written by Chris Morgan. Starring John Ortiz, Laz Alonso, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster.

Apr
03
2009
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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