April 9, 2009

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Fast & Furious (R)
The whole fast-car-driving, tight-shirt-wearing gang reunites for Fast & Furious, the Vin Diesel- helmed Part Four in the pretty-cars-go-fast saga.

If you’ll remember from the end of Tokyo Drift, speed racer Dom Toretto (Diesel) is still out there challenging people to illegal races and augmenting his well-developed upper body with sweet muscle cars. We catch up with him in the Dominican Republic, where he and assorted crew members — including longtime tough-chick girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) — are stealing fuel from a tanker truck barreling down a giant mountain. It’s a fun, mostly pointless scene that serves primarily to remind you what you liked about the first movie: specifically, badasses driving fast and crashing stuff.

Then there’s some talking. Angsty arguey fugitive-from-justice blah blah and Dom leaves Letty For Her Own Good.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) conducts an awesome foot chase in southern California (culminating in one of those great jump-through-the-window-pane-to-catch-a-guy moves) in pursuit of some drug-running gang. Then, blabbity talky, we fast forward through a bunch of scenes setting up the Dom/Brian reunion: Dom is back in L.A. to catch someone who done him wrong, Brian is trying to catch major drug dealers. While the boys are on opposite sides of the law, they both like speedy cars and their separate goals involve hunting down the same gang members so rev the engines and shine the spoiler, it’s racin’ time.

There are scenes where Brian tries to revive a friendship with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), who still harbors resentments toward him for the bad ending to their romance back in the first movie, and scenes where Brian’s FBI superiors chastise him for not following protocol. You and I could probably write these scenes ourselves. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll bet you could correctly guess a significant part of the dialogue. Some of these scenes are boring and some have moments of comedy (some of which might even be intentional — though the two times a sultry woman says “vaya con Dios” are hilarious and probably not intentionally so) but they all kinda just kill time between what we’re paying for, which is the bad-ass cars and the improbable races. (And, really, the bad-ass American muscle cars — the foreign cars look sporty but they just don’t have the eat-my-dust over-the-top aggressive testosterone-ness of the supped up American beauties. Particularly when Diesel makes his car charge forward on its back two wheels, like an angry rearing nitrous-fueled horse.)

Fast & Furious could have done with a little less yakkity yak and a little more vroom vroom (my cut of the movie would probably be something like 40 minutes long, most of it cars racing or crashing). But as it is, it provides all the campy fun you’d expect and just enough speed to keep it interesting. C+

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references. Directed by Justin Lin and written by Chris Morgan (from characters by Gary Scott Thompson), Fast & Furious is an hour and 39 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures.