Fast and Furious
Release Date: April 3, 2009
Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez
By Sean Chavel
We’re at installment 4 and Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are back. "Fast & Furious," the best in the series, has a number of upgrades that might mean more to B-movie lovers than to car lovers. Take this inventory seriously. The dialogue has a Schwarzenegger deadpan pulp, the action has Michael Bay aerodynamics but suffused with wit, the cinematography has a smoky-noir Tony Scott touch and there are some tacky-but-nifty video game graphics that work as an interface GPS navigation device inside the vehicles.
If you can concede how these ingredients can seriously benefit the F&F series than you will be ready to sit back and laugh giddily at this new entry, an entertaining B-movie carousing in its own trash appeal. The opening action sequence pits Dom (Diesel) and his crew in a hi-jacking attempt of a big rig vehicle on the treacherous mountain roads of the Dominican Republican. The super-charged but rhythmic cutting gets an immediate grip on your action cravings, and although the crime goes awry, there is a joyfully preposterous shot of Dom zipping his vehicle underneath a flipping tanker on fire that depends on flawless split-second timing.
The plot is a potboiler of convenient and obvious elements designed to bring everybody back. This time, Dom returns to L.A. to avenge a drug kingpin who is responsible for his girlfriend’s death. F.B.I. agent O’Connor (Walker) is also on the trail of the same man, a mysterious nemesis named Braga. Dom and O’Connor will cooperate with each other while law enforcement superiors try to make O’Connor look incompetent and Dom look like a worse guy than he really is. Let’s not forget: Dom is a sympathetic criminal! Jordana Brewster also returns as Dom’s sister, and O’Connor’s former love interest.
Another reprise is Dom’s 1970 Dodge Charger which suffered major demolishment in Part I but has been restored to full glory. Dom’s and O’Connor’s autos make an obligatory entry into a street drag race, an incredible corkscrew that is the best of the series. The racing culture features flocks of scantily clad babes parading around in stilettos. Selections of hardcore house and reggae music blasts the soundtrack. You can count on the familiar elements.
But what makes installment 4 standout is how it is an improvement on the familiar elements. The acting is just, eh, better than it ever was before with Diesel fueled up on avenging rage, Walker looking more like a chiseled grown-up rather than a teen idol magazine cover, and Brewster acting less like a waif than as a sultry Demi Moore prototype with tomboy instincts. The dialogue has more splintering badass attitude than its predecessors. And, of course, there is a wider selection of muscle and import cars than ever before (I like the Porsche Cayman 2007 best).
In my review of the previous installment “Tokyo Drift” I wrote, “The races are shapeless montages of flash and color with no evidenced strategy that compliment the art of drag racing.” I was surprised to learn that “Drift” director Justin Lin returned to helm this sequel. Lin’s visual styling has changed unexpectedly, and for the better. His action this time is visually coherent but he has also figured out how to make dumb and ridiculous look outrageously fun. Lin has delivered top of the line trash entertainment.