Fast & Furious

Movie Information

The Story: Fugitive Dominic Toretto teams up with FBI agent Brian O'Conner to stop a Mexican drug-smuggling operation. The Lowdown: Cars drive fast and things blow up. That's about it.
Score:

Genre: Mindless Gearhead Action
Director: Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, John Ortiz, Michelle Rodriguez
Rated: PG-13

On the plus side, at least some of the action scenes in this film are put together in a coherent manner (an increasingly rare phenomenon). Also, Paul Walker no longer looks like he’s waiting for the director to tell him what to do next (that stint in Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared back in 2006 did him a world of good). What else can be said of Fast & Furious? Well, it’s not nearly as funny as Vin Diesel’s last picture, Babylon A.D., but whether that’s in this movie’s favor is as personal a call as deciding whether Mr. Diesel’s second chin is really getting that obvious, or if director Justin Lin just shoots him in profile way too often.

In addition, it can be noted that Fast & Furious has pulled down an astonishing $72.5 million already—nearly $30 million more than expected. (Losing those “thes” in the film’s title and putting in that ampersand paid dividends. Quick! Remake The Agony and the Ecstasy as Agony & Ecstasy!) Theater parking lots dotted with souped-up vintage Mustangs and Chargers perhaps explain the ticket sales. But as a Brit sports-car enthusiast, my pulse may quicken at the sight of a 1954 MG TF or an E-type Jaguar, but I’m unmoved by a jacked-up Camaro. It is a character flaw I worry about on a daily basis—or maybe not. Regardless, Fast & Furious obviously has its audience; I just don’t happen to be part of it.

As a mindless—verging on incomprehensible—action flick, Fast & Furious scales the heights of adequacy. That’s to say that people drive fast, perform improbable stunts, things blow up, and the leads glare at each other a lot. Neither the plot nor most of the individual set pieces, however, survive even cursory scrutiny.

Take the film’s admittedly well-done opening sequence. Watching Diesel’s Dominic Toretto (yes, it sounds like a syndrome) and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty more or less pull off a completely insane scheme, which involves hijacking gasoline tankers on a dangerous mountain road in the Dominican Republic, is pretty thrilling stuff. The stunts are good. The staging is admirable. It generates some solid suspense, and it will undoubtedly afford the adrenalin rush desired by the speed-obsessed. However, don’t ask why they don’t just stop the truck, hold up the driver, detach all the tankers at their leisure and drive off with twice the haul they manage by the more extrovert display of daring. I’m willing to put this under the heading of John Ford’s answer as to why the Indians don’t just shoot the horses in Stagecoach (1939): “Because then you wouldn’t have a movie.” It’s harder to cut that kind of slack for the plot.

Ultimately, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. Dominic ditches Letty because the law is closing in and he thinks she’ll be safer without him. Of course, this means she is killed shortly thereafter for no very good reason except that the movie needs a device to get Dominic back to the U.S. where he’s a wanted man. (And possibly Michelle Rodriguez has a good agent.) What follows is a lot of uneasy squaring off with FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), who let Dominic get away at the end of the first film. This is combined with an equally uneasy reconciliation between Brian and Dominic’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster, who probably viewed returning to the series as a step up from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)). All of this is wrapped around a plot to bring down a drug lord and revenge Letty’s death. There’s a not-very-mysterious mystery as to the identity of the drug lord, lots of duplicity and even a mountain with a secret tunnel right out of a cheesy Republic serial.

All this might be agreeably stupid at 80 to 90 minutes, but at nearly two hours the cardboard characters, the fast driving and the silly plot twists wear out their welcome long before the film sets up its inevitable sequel and the credits roll. Doubtless, there will be some who disagree with this assessment. That, as they say, is what makes street racing. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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25 thoughts on “Fast & Furious

  1. Sean Williams

    Quick! Remake The Agony and the Ecstasy as Agony & Ecstasy!

    Shh! Producers may be listening!

    (And possibly Michelle Rodriguez has a good agent.)

    Then why is she in this film in the first place?

    On an unrelated note, I would never have pegged you for a European sports car enthusiast.

  2. Chad Nesbitt

    We loved it. Action from start to finish.
    Diesel was great. Ready for FF5.

  3. Chad Nesbitt

    By the way STAR TREK opens in May.

    STAR TREK, STAR TREK, STAR TREK.

    Did I mention that STAR TREK opens in May?

    Just wanted everybody to know!

    Psssst….. staaaaaar treeeeek may 09! :)lol

  4. Ken Hanke

    On an unrelated note, I would never have pegged you for a European sports car enthusiast

    I am full of surprises.

  5. T_REX

    Great review. This is coming from a film lover that has not seen and has no interest in this franchise but it makes me ponder….

    Mr Hanke, from the last 30-40 years, what do you think is the best action movie?

  6. Ken Hanke

    Mr Hanke, from the last 30-40 years, what do you think is the best action movie?

    It’s not a genre I tend to like all that much, and in all fairness, it breaks down into so many sub-genres that the question is even more complicated. Let me cogitate on this a bit.

  7. Dread P. Roberts

    I just won a bet with myself.

    I’m happy for you, Ken. There are few things worse than loosing against yourself. That’s why I refuse to play chess with myself anymore; or argue with myself, for that matter. I would certainly hate to owe myself money. It’s bad enough to be indebted to other people, much less to yourself. Plus, I find it is often much harder to get away from yourself.

  8. Great review. This is coming from a film lover that has not seen and has no interest in this franchise but it makes me ponder….

    I like the first one. It was a good update of the juvenile delinquent film.

  9. Justin Souther

    A film you’re responsible for me sitting through

    I couldn’t even make it through that trailer.

  10. I couldn’t even make it through that trailer.

    Let me toughen him up Ken. Justin, I would like you review THE SINFUL DWARF for an upcoming showing.

  11. Justin Souther

    Let me toughen him up Ken. Justin, I would like you review THE SINFUL DWARF for an upcoming showing.

    Oh like I wouldn’t make him sit through it, too.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Oh like I wouldn’t make him sit through it, too.

    He’s not kidding — and after I sat through Observe and Report with him tonight. The sad thing is I’d do it, if only because I’m not passing up a movie called The Sinful Dwarf.

  13. Sean Williams

    A film you’re responsible for me sitting through

    I like the fact that your review describes its genre as “really dumb action”.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Don’t be so sure…

    Looks pretty special to me.

    I like the fact that your review describes its genre as “really dumb action”.

    It is a genre unto itself.

  15. luluthebeast

    Dumb like a fox! Budget of 86 million, sales of 346 million. Good old Vin!

  16. Ken Hanke

    Dumb like a fox! Budget of 86 million, sales of 346 million.

    That doesn’t keep the movie — or Vin, for that matter — from being really dumb.

  17. luluthebeast

    You’re just jealous because you have a beautiful head of hair!

  18. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know about Jeremy, but I’m going to try not to think about that logic.

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