Besides the string of hilariously ridiculous sequel titles, I’ve never had much of an interest in the Fast and The Furious series. There must be something worthwhile, though, considering they recently came out with the fifth movie in the series to a good critical and commercial reaction. Fast & Furious, the fourth movie in the franchise, shows some of why I imagine the series got popular.
The story intersects between Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) going after the same heroin druglord. Dom’s after him because one of his men killed his girlfriend, while Brian’s an FBI agent who’s been put on a 72 hour time limit to stop him before the case is permanently closed. There’s a lot of plot points in the movie that I imagine only make sense if you’ve seen the first movie, a sentence I never thought I would write about a Fast and the Furious movie. But you can figure it out if you’ve seen an action movie in your lifetime. The characters are just walking action movie clichés, given the minimum of depth and sent out in the world to blow things up.
And the movie blows things up well. Whenever it gets to a high-speed car chase, you know you’re in for a good time. The film’s really big setpiece involves a race through the Los Angeles streets that features plenty of stunts, car crashes, and a little humor. Although some of the last part comes from the pure cheeseball nature of it. The GPS that’s leading them through the race has digital flag girls appear. I don’t know whether it’s meant to be hilarious or not, but it does mean you’re going to take the movie with all the levity you should be taking it.
It’s too bad that, when it’s not in a car, the movie tends to grind to a halt. The plot is meaningless and any time spent on it is time wasted. At least when you’re watching Paul Walker, you’re watching somebody who has a decent level of acting ability, enough that you’re interested in him when he’s on screen. And his FBI plotline could’ve had some depth in another movie. Vin Diesel, or at least a cardboard cutout that looks suspiciously like him, mumbles out every line and has the constant facial expression of someone who hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in a few days. Angry, sad, happy, it doesn’t matter. And it really doesn’t, since his revenge plotline is just pointless in the long run, giving him little more than a reason to be put into a car, which is where the movie should be.
Fast & Furious is a good movie when it’s in the middle of the action. When it’s not, it’s a mediocre movie, and slips further any time they try to put the camera on Vin Diesel. At the very least, it’s worth watching with the fast-forward button close by.