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Oh, Justin Lin, you were praised as a director with so much promise after your groundbreaking Better Luck Tomorrow {2002}, what are you doing?  As you vacillated between well-meaning pieces like Annapolis {2006} and Finishing the Game {2007}; I should have paid more attention to that shudder I felt after you signed on for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift {2006}.  I can forgive anyone for giving in to the lure of bright green cabbage one time, but to shamelessly go back for seconds with Fast & Furious, the fourth chapter in the flashy car series, made me shake my head in wonder and some amazement that Lin might have found his niche.

Fast & Furious is a reunion of the stars of the previous F&F flicks, there’s even a rep from Lin’s Tokyo Drift.  Vin Diesel and Paul Walker reprise their roles as hard-driving rivals on opposite sides of the law.  Walker’s Detective Brian O’Conner has been clearly corrupted by his association with the outlaw racer Domenic Toretto, and is regarded as a rule-breaking loose cannon by his squad.  Dom is up to no good as usual, hijacking entire tankers of gasoline from under the noses of their drivers when he’s not enjoying the spoils of his ill-gotten gain on the beaches of the Dominican Republic.  A sudden tragedy brings Dom once again into the sights of the L.A.P.D.  To avenge his loss, Dom must infiltrate the drug gang responsible, the very same crew that O’Conner is trying to bring to justice and the two must race each other to win a spot as the gang’s transporter.

Dumb as a box of rocks with even less to say; Fast & Furious does exactly what it’s supposed to do; provide visceral, utterly mindless thrills.  The set pieces are popcorn-chomping fun with lots of crashes, explosions and risky race courses set in the middle of L.A. traffic and guided by GPS.  Lin ramps up the stuntwork with judicious and wholly appropriate use of shaky cam and great frame set-ups.  The race through the Los Angeles streets is a nail-biter and the opening sequence with Michelle Rodriguez playing human fly off the back of a tanker is electrifying.  The cars are works of art even for those who don’t know the difference between “muscle” and “import.”  Fast & Furious owes much to the hot rod films of the 1950’s through the 70’s, and wouldn’t be out of place had it been produced by B-movie king, Roger Corman.  A big difference from those films is the expense; Fast & Furious is one pricey video game; a symphony of explosive destruction complete with scantily-clad hoochie-mamas and faux-lipstick lesbians to make the male fantasy complete.  Luckily for the ladies, Vin Diesel’s tailor seems incapable of making a shirt in Mr. Diesel’s correct size or even creating a prison jumpsuit with long sleeves.  Paul Walker’s performance is about as engaging as a linoleum floor, but he’s so darned purty his relentlessly monotone delivery just fades away like so much static, which is what I could say that about the entire script.  I wasn’t coming to Fast & Furious looking for the linguistic complexity of David Mamet, but the barrage of sub-fourth-grade level clichés threw me for a loop.  That said, I have to give propers to the film for providing me with my new insult for ’09; Tropic Thunder’s Brandon T. Jackson plays one of the racers taking on Dom and O’Conner, his obnoxious, hyperactive character is referred to as “Ghetto Smurf.”

The acting is either cartoonishly overdone, underdone, or nonexistent, but Vin Diesel’s steely glower and ever-exposed pythons do his work for him.  The only actor who seems to be having any fun is Michelle Rodriguez, her and Diesel’s matching scowls and toughie attitudes really compliment each other (- I actually find Rodriguez more of a threat.), too bad there’s not more of that.  The only character development in this film takes place under the hoods of its high powered hot rods.  Regardless of my wailing for Justin Lin’s fading directorial credibility, Fast & Furious is all about the speed and crash-boom-bam of the high-octane action and on that score it delivers admirably.  Does its built-in audience and anybody looking to turn their minds off for an hour and a half really need anything more?


~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 3rd, 2009










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(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)


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