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Home / Articles / Movies & TV / Film Reviews /  Fast & Furious
Film Reviews

Fast & Furious

Drive Shaft: Fast & Furious teases with action, but it’s a dull copy of the original’s fun.

By MaryAnn Johanson
Posted // April 1,2009 - You’ve seen it in the TV ads and trailers: Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez drive their souped-up hotrod under a burning gas tanker that’s flipping through the air and coming right at them. It’s a preposterous scenario, but damned exciting, cinematically—and it’s the capper of the sequence that opens Fast & Furious. Diesel’s Dom and Rodriguez’s Letty are now chillin’ in the Dominican Republic and hijacking tanker trucks off the lonely Caribbean highways for fun and profit—mostly for fun, one comes to understand. It’s all very Mad Max—and as director Justin Lin presents it, it’s terribly awesome and original, albeit as thoroughly antisocial as the Furious movies have always been.

It bodes well for Lin as an action director in a way that his previous go at the franchise, Tokyo Drift, did not—if Lin can get his hands on better scripts. You can pretty much leave the theater after Diesel and Rodriguez zoom under the burning tanker, because every hint of originality—every hint of a reason for this movie to exist at all—disappears after that. Go home and rent The Fast and the Furious; you’ll be more satisfied in the end.

Because damned if there ain’t enough street racing in this here street-racing movie. It’s 40 minutes until the next racing bit, a demolition derby through the streets of downtown Los Angeles in which most of the drivers—regular folk going home from work or whatever—don’t realize they’re participating. That’s even more outrageously antisocial than the tanker bit, but still pretty exciting in a big-dumb-action-movie way.

It’s exactly what you want from a Furious movie, and instead this one farts around too much with drama it simply isn’t prepared to cope with. There comes a moment when a street racer dies, and Lin gives us the typical shot of a cemetery and a coffin and people dressed in black that’s supposed to be solemn. But then there are all these colorful, almost cartoonish, beefed-up Japanese street-racing cars parked alongside the grave, and it’s funny. It’s not supposed to be, but it is.

Then there’s a ton of other stuff that plays more like Law & Order: Fast & Furious than anything else. Paul Walker’s cop Brian O’Conner is back and trying to infiltrate the gang of a local drug lord who uses street racers to move product across the border from Mexico. Brian was LAPD, but now he’s FBI; this is the movie’s idea of ramping things up, but who cares? Get to the racing already. We don’t want to watch Walker wrestling with lines like, “I lied to you. That’s what I do best. That’s why the feds recruited me.” Because he’s not up to it.

And the longer we linger on stuff that ain’t racing and ain’t about switching our brains off and reveling in the adrenaline rush of car porn, the more likely we are to wonder if, at 36, Walker’s Brian is too old to be passing as a street racer in what’s supposed to be a game for young men who are still fatally reckless because they still think they’re immortal. And if Brian is maybe too old, what about Diesel’s Dom, at 41?

Oh, sure, Dom and Brian are butting heads again, because Dom is back in Los Angeles after the tanker bit, and also trying to infiltrate the drug gang for reasons of his own. There’s a lot of metaphorical dick-measuring going on, but it’s covering ground we thought was already settled a few movies back. One big kudo to a movie otherwise drenched in stereotypically brainless testosterone: Diesel has a great moment in which Dom expresses his attraction only to smart, complex women. It’s a nice counter to all the anonymous, mostly naked, gyrating female bodies decorating the movie.

If you were a tad confused by the title—if you thought perhaps the original 2001 movie titled The Fast and the Furious was getting a re-release—well, you’re not far wrong. This may be the most honestly monikered movie ever, though, for which it deserves a small measure of praise. Deleting a couple of “the’s” and swapping out an “and” in favor of an ampersand doesn’t do much to distinguish this film from the first one—but the movie that unspools after that title doesn’t, either.?

FAST & FURIOUS
2_stars.gif
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez
Rated PG-13

Try_These_090402_a.jpg The Fast and the Furious
(2001)

Vin Diesel
Paul Walker
Rated PG-13
Try_These_090402_b.jpg

xXx
(2002)
Vin Diesel
Asia Argento
Rated PG-13

Try_These_090402_c.jpg

Better Luck Tomorrow
(2003)

Parry Shen
Jason J. Tobin
Rated R

Try_These_090402_d.jpg

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
(2006)

Lucas Black
Zachery Bryan
Rated PG-13




 
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