Film Review: ‘Fast & Furious’

Posted on April 12, 2009



MovieSummary: Not a good movie but a great flick.
Rating: 8/10

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the movie.

The four main stars of the original The Fast & The Furious reunite for what they are billing as the first true sequel of the series. This fourth entry finds Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner crossing paths again to pursue a drug kingpin bringing in product from Mexico using street racers. A surprisingly serious effort that is as dorky fun as the previous models.

Feature-Length Review after the jump.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.
Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

In full disclosure, I am a Fast & Furious nut. No, I’m not going to die if I never see the movies again. I can get through a day, a week, a month, a long time without having to see the movies. But if they’re on TV somewhere, you can bet I’m probably watching them. They ain’t pretty. They ain’t good. But they sure are entertaining as hell.

To continue in the measure of full disclosure, I am not a car guy. I pick up a few things here and there. Mainly, though, I want a car to run to get me from here to there without problems. I want it to have a sound system that I can listen to. And I want it to have some get-up and go. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you crap-all about cars. Just has never interested me. A reason why I find it odd that I like these movies.

I have a soft spot for the first movie, but I’d be quick to say that Fast & Furious is the best of the four. Gone is the real focus on the underground racing scene that was present – in its various forms – in the previous movies. This movie is solely about the guy running drugs and the task at hand for Dom and Brian. And it works. It’s not Shakespeare but it keeps you engaged throughout.

The movie takes place chronologically between 2Fast 2Furious and The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, a surprisingly interesting choice that allows them to include the other two sequels in the storyline without having to focus on them or address any specific continuity. I was actually hoping we’d get to see Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pierce put in an appearance. He’d signed on to cameo but I believe his scheduling got in the way. We did get a chance to see Dom and Han together, which sets up the relationship we know about from Drift.

A few years after the events of the first movie, Dom is in Mexico running a similar highway theft racket; this time the target is fuel trucks. Dom’s girl Letty, Michelle Rodriguez briefly reprising her role, is part of his crew. When he hears from Han that the police are closing in on them, Dom decides to leave Letty to protect her. Three years later, he receives a call from his sister Mia that Letty has been killed.

Brian has also heard the news and knows it ties into his ongoing investigation of a drug cartel run by Arturo Braga. Brian is now with the FBI and Walker, to my shock, actually wears his age and experience well. Brian feels like a different character than we last saw in Miami, but not a total departure. When he gets a chance to race, he actually geeks out.

I love that, after their initial running into at Park’s place, Dom and Brian get truly reacquainted during the race for the final spot on Braga’s team. It was a great throwback to the original movie and it was exciting to see the way both men handled their business. They probably could’ve done without the video game like GPS system, but it had its place for the “culture”.

Dom and Brian both infiltrate the cartel and make an exciting run through hidden tunnels breaching the border from Mexico to the U.S. Dom, though, wastes little time getting to his point: finding Letty’s killer. He discovers it’s Braga’s main driver, Fenix, who attempts to kill Dom. This leads to an exciting escape by Dom and Brian with $60M worth of drugs, setting up the third act confrontation with Braga, as well as leading to a crossroads for Brian in his law-enforcement career.

It also sets up a chaste relationship between Dom and Giselle, Braga’s girl. She all but throws herself at him and, though we know there’s the base male part of him that’s receptive, he thankfully doesn’t hook up with her. Letty is his focus and he’s there to get a job done. Giselle, as all good jilted molls do, helps him out.

One of the things I liked about the movie was that it was very focused on where it was going. Where the other movies knew where they had to get, they took the scenic route by playing in the neon-lit gearhead world. Fast & Furious is all business, which gave the movie more of a serious sheen than I had expected. Some might accuse the movie of trying to be deeper and more poignant as a result. It’s not but it is a bit more deft than its predecessors.

I enjoyed how the movie put a nice cap on the series and set everyone in their correct places. It could easily work as the final movie but leaves open another film, which it appears everyone is eager to get to work on. This is a stripped down tale of revenge without a lot of complications or twists, which helps the film tremendously.

Vin Diesel shines as Dom. He’s not as light-hearted as previous; some have likened him more to his other signature character, Riddick. I can see that but I also see the place he’s coming from with Dom. Yes, he chose to give Letty up but he still held her in his heart. A death to someone like that would cause anyone to be a darker version of themselves. Dom gives a smile toward the end of the film that recalls his earlier spirit, so darker Dom for the majority of the story worked for me.

Paul Walker is a paradox for me. I simultaneously like and hate him. I’m not the first to make the comparison, but he’s sort of a low-rent Keanu Reeves. He comes across kind of vapid on screen, and yet – and yet – there’s something there. My favorite performance of his was in Eight Below but I’m usually frustrated by him onscreen. It was the case with the first two Furious movies. This one, though, he’s still got some of that surfer boy in him, but there is more maturity to his performance here. You do get the feeling that Brian has lived through more things since the second film. Walker’s not going to win any awards or anything but I felt this was probably his strongest turn in the role.

The movie is marketed as a reunion between Diesel and Walker. Honestly, that’s primarily all you get. Everyone else is superfluous. Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster turn in okay performances, though they aren’t really given much to do. John Ortiz is okay but not particularly memorable as Campos. I preferred his similar but more complex role as Jose Yero in Miami Vice. The FBI schlubs are all standard issue. A part of me was hoping to see Ted Levine back in the film as well, but he was LAPD not Feeb. It was nice little (unintentional) NCIS shoutout to see Liza Lapira in the film.

Justin Lin’s direction also surprised me a bit. The movie had its requisite moments, but it was nowhere near as garrish as Lin’s Tokyo Drift. His mostly straightforward style served the story well and I appreciated the darker palate throughout.

If you’re a fan of any or all of the first three movies, I think you’ll definitely enjoy this one. If you didn’t care for the first movies, I think you’d still have a good time with this. I got a big kick out of it and I look forward to the multiple viewings I’ll have when it makes its way to cable.

Posted in: Movies