Friday, April 10, 2009

'Fast & Furious' is running on fumes

“Fast & Furious,” the fourth installment in the street-racing franchise, isn’t an awful movie, but it is so inconsequential that it is hard to even be bothered to write anything about it. But I have already wasted 90 minutes watching it, so I guess I’ll waste more time.

The film made $72.5 million its opening weekend, the highest opening of a film released in April. It would appear that fans were eager for the return of the four principle leads from 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious” after only Paul Walker returned for two and Vin Diesel made a cameo in three.

Diesel, Walker, Michelle Rodriquez and Jordana Brewster all return this time, but the film’s “New Model, Original Parts” tagline is a misnomer. Fans excited to see the dynamic of the four leads again will be disappointed because the female leads get substantially shortchanged. Rodriquez’ appearance is not much more than a cameo, and Brewster only fairs marginally better.

Then again, “The Fast and the Furious” was always more about Diesel and Walker’s relationship than their love interests. In fact, if you want a quick laugh, search “The Fast and the Curious” on youtube for an amusing reworking of the trailer for the first film.

Seeing Diesel and Walker’s chemistry together again may be enough for fans to give the film pass, but for anyone else it is a messy bore.

The plot has something to do with drug trafficking, and naturally street racing factors into the mix. Diesel is wanted for various nefarious deeds and Walker is now working for the FBI, but both have motivations for taking down the drug kingpin, and they make an uneasy alliance to do so.

There are two worthy sequences in the film. The best is the film’s opening featuring Diesel and his crew attempting to steal gas tankers as a trucker makes his way up a winding road. It is pretty spectacular and offers something different for the series, but after that it is back to more of the same.

The other noteworthy scene is the inevitable Diesel and Walker street race, which despite being undermined by an annoying GPS gimmick that makes much of the sequence look like a cheap video game, does excite. It is a well directed, if completely ludicrous race.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car sequences rely too heavily on mediocre and obvious CGI. One setting, tunnels through a mountain, is used twice. The first time through it is mildly interesting; the second time it is mind-numbingly dull.

This is nothing more than a shameless cash-in. All the careers of the four leads aren’t doing too well, and this was a guaranteed hit. Unsurprisingly, the door was left open for a sequel, which chances are we’ll get. The producers already removed “the” from the title; maybe next time they can get rid of “and” too and simply call it “Fast Furious."

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