Principal Cast : Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot, Laz Alonso, Sung Kang, Ron Yuan, Shea Wigham, Liza Lapira, Jack Conley.
Synopsis: Dom Toretto and Brian O’Connor re-team to bring down a violent drug lord, responsible for killing Toretto’s girlfriend. Car chases and racing abound.
A few years back, a little film came along that sparked the imagination of hoon drivers and reckless idiots everywhere, and a resurgence in the underground street-racing scene had authorities worried. The Fast & The Furious, a testosterone-fuelled action flick featuring hot cars, and hotter women, took the world by storm and propelled the art of street racing into the mainstream. Starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, the film would go on to spawn two less-than-critically-successful sequels, before everything seemed to fall apart, and talk of a fourth film waned into obscurity.
Then, the idea of reuniting the original cast for one last trip came around again (possibly due to Diesel’s cameo at the end of the second sequel, Tokyo Drift) and now, we have a return to form for the once ailing franchise. Fast & Furious, which is essentially the same film title minus a couple of “the”‘s, re-teams Diesel and Walker with fellow co-stars Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, and returns them to the hyped-up supercars of the original film; albeit without the plot to back it up. When his girlfriend is killed by a vicious drug baron while driving for him, Toretto (Diesel) seeks revenge by becoming a driver for the same drug baron. FBI Agent Brian O’Connor (Walker) is trying to bring down the same drug lord, and at first he works in opposition to Toretto, before teaming with him to penetrate the crime gang.
In films like this, it’s easy to simply say the plot exists to serve the action, rather than the other way around. Fast & Furious upholds that mantra, worships it even, since none of the plotting or scripting in this film is in any way dramatic or interesting: the characters, like the previous Furious films, are simply 2 dimensional clichés, lacking depth or even charm. Walker, who was at least interesting to watch in the original film, lacks the warmth this time around. Vin Diesel, who has successfully built a career as a modern Chuck Norris, again proves that he can’t act so much as simply move and mumble his way through a performance. Brewster, who hasn’t appeared in anything major since the original Furious, again proves her D-grade status with some truly awful acting in her scenes with Walker and Diesel; it’s not entirely her fault, though, since the script seem written by a computer. And poor Rodriguez, who appears in the first ten minutes of the film before being killed off, is the sparkiest one to watch: her energy is always great on screen, even if she doesn’t get the major roles she probably should.
Original Furious director Rob Cohen has long since moved on from the franchise, and we are blessed to have again as helmer one Justin Lin, who brought us films like Annapolis and Better Luck Tomorrow, as well as the CGI-heavy Tokyo Drift instalment of this series of films. Lin certainly knows how to direct action, his camera placements and sense of movement are excellent. He can’t direct dramatic moments to save his life, as the Tokyo Drift and now this film have confirmed. Perhaps it’s a testament to the fast-paced PlayStation generation that a lot of modern filmmakers seem able to put together an amazing action sequence, but when they have to keep the camera still and focus on peoples faces, they go to water. in any case, Lin has recognized that Fast & Furious isn’t about dramatic moments, it’s about cars and fast paced action. And he delivers that in spades.
There are moments in Fast & Furious that are genuinely exciting. The opening sequence, with Toretto and his carjack crew chasing down (and ultimately wrecking) a tanker trailer filled with fuel, is a particular highlight, as is a frenetic chase through a series of caves (in the same vein as the mineshaft chase in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom). A sat-nav based race through the streets of LA is well filmed, but ultimately pointless, serving only to beef up the action quota for the films financiers, and give us some cool trailer-worthy footage to hook new viewers. The villains of the film are generic characters, sneering and barraging their way through a series of twists and turns that aren’t really all that “twisty” to begin with.
It’s hard to criticize a film that so easily lives up to the popcorn fodder style it presents us with. Part of me could slam this films lack of decent characterization and scripting in favor of car-porn and scantily clad female characters as detrimental to the artform. But I tend to think that folks who go into films like this expecting some kind of quality are seriously deluded: this is a film about car chasing and racing. It’s more Cannonball Run than Ronin, and is a whole heck of a lot of fun. Fast & Furious is a welcome return to form for the series, and with a couple of sequels now on the cards to be made, it’s good to see the fun is still present in this concept.
Fast & Furious manages to escape from being a turgid bore by returning to the roots from which it sprang. The coup of casting original stars Walker and Diesel allows the story to maintain a more organic, natural feel while at the same time, giving us a fresh new plot to cope with: a plot that borders on ludicrous but doesn’t dwell on itself too much. Had it done so, this film would have bombed. Filled with a snappy, energetic charisma, Fast & Furious is a fun, silly, entertaining waste of time, in the best possible way.