Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Film Review: 'Fast & Furious' – 7.5/10

Film Review: Racing • Action (2009)
'Fast & Furious'
Written by Joé McKen on Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dom and Bryan (Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) are rollin’ together again like the good ol’ days in Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious.

It’s probably odd of me to enjoy the Fast and the Furious franchise, considering my inherent disdain for most of those high-octane illegal-racing-type films and games (particularly as they’re mostly comprised of those pathetic snot-headed, backwards-cap-wearing youths I despise so), but what can I say? I’m a sucker for this particular line of films, starting from the excellent first (The Fast & the Furious), then descending into murky waters with the second (2 Fast 2 Furious), and skipping over the third (Tokyo Drift) which I’ve still yet to see. Call me lazy.

If I was disappointed to hear that the original cast of Bryan, Dom and the rest were entirely absent from Tokyo Drift (minus a tiny little scene at the very end), I was equally rejoiced to hear of their return in their entirety for this fourth installment in the iconic series. Really, it just doesn’t feel like The Fast and the Furious without the Dom and Bryan duality. And if before their friendship was strained, imagine how it’ll be some six years later, after Bryan’s betrayal to Dom and his friends, including his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster).

The film is an interquel, basically a bridge between 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift, and tries to tie up some loose ends, answer some lingering questions (namely, “what’s happened since?”), and set up part of the scene and introducing some of the characters for Tokyo Drift. Whether it’s ultimately better or less impressive than the first film depends on the viewer; personally, I tend to be plagued by that mysterious phenomenon where recent movies feel like they’re “better” than oldies, though this time they feel equal in their entertainment values.

Enough babbling. The film opens with Dom being up to his old tricks: hijacking huge trucks and rigs on open roads and highways. Right now, it’s a four-trailer propane truck he’s attacking (“black gold”, remember?), and although the highly entertaining and thrilling scene ultimately ends in success, he’s now an internationally-wanted criminal and is forced to end his reckless activities. (Oh, this tanker-truck-hijacking bit was in the Dominican Republic. By the way.) He bids goodbye to his love, Letty, and departs in the night.

But his problems are far from over. A short time later, he receives one phone call he’ll never forget: Letty’s been murdered. Heartbroken and bent on revenge (which, if you’ve known Dom, is a very chilling thought to cross any target’s mind), Dom goes on his own private investigation, coercing leads and sources until he arrives at a race for a notorious and powerful yet elusive drug lord, Arturo Braga. The races are orchestrated by Braga’s aid in hiring the best drivers around, Ramon Compos (John Ortiz).

One little surprise for Dom, though: he’ll be competing against, amongst others, Bryan O’Conner, now an undercover FBI agent – again – who’s also actively searching for Braga. Through races, deceptions and lots of troubles and tight situations, the two re-forge their previous friendship and once again race for the same cause: finding the man behind Letty’s murder … and the several million dollars worth of heroin that’s sneaking its way into the U.S. from Mexico every few weeks.

The film has everything you could expect from a Fast and Furious installment: you’ve got fast cars ranging from exotic sportscars to homegrown muscles, you’ve got steely rebels and sneaky villains, you’ve got good guys keeping secrets from each other until it becomes a web of secrets and lies that Charlotte would be deign to tend to; and all the while the viewer is constantly satisfied with high-octane races, lots of action, excellent (though apparent) CGI scenes (including a race/fight in a narrow and sinuous mountain tunnel that’s truly exhilarating to watch), and enough meaningless and deliberate destruction of structures and constructions to send architects and engineers weeping.

The story feels relatively loose and disjointed at times, seemingly made up of random races, explosions and thrills all stitched together via a hastily-concocted and quite uninspired “drug lord” plot that seems to have been lifted straight out of the second film at times. I did enjoy the considerably darker themes and tones contrasting with the previous films – this is the first film with more than one deaths, if I recall correctly, and several of which are really quite brutal – and it feels like the films, much like their audience, are growing up and maturing into something better, riper. Although, perhaps that’s just my personal, and unique, impression.

Overall, Fast & Furious is certainly nothing you won’t have seen before in elements from a dozen other racing movies, and while certain elements and details are uninspired and plain derivative, the overall end product is one that does somehow manage to hold a proud candle to the rest of the franchise. Not a film to have wet-dreams over perhaps, but it will easily pass the time when you’ve got nothing else to do, or when the video store is out of WALL·E or There Will Be Blood. Or whatever.

Roaring through the screens with delightful fast-paced sequences coupled with a decent plot and old familiar faces, Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious deserves itself 7.5 wrecked vehicles out of 10.

Dominic “Dom” Toretto: Vin Diesel • Bryan O’Conner: Paul Walker • Ramon Compos/Arturo Braga: John Ortiz • Mia Toretto: Jordana Brewster
Crew & Credits
Director(s): Justin Lin • Writer(s): Chris Morgan. Characters: Gary Scott Thompson. • Original Score: Brian Tyler
General Information
Distributed by: Universal Pictures • Released: April 03, 2009 • Running Time: 107 mins • Budget: US$80 million • Rated: PG-13


Post a Comment

You can post any sort of feedback or questions you like, just as long as you abide by the rules detailed in the About section. =)