'Fast & Furious' obeys the speed limit

Just when you thought The Fast and the Furious series would end as a trilogy, “Fast & Furious” races onto screens, bringing back many of the characters from the original film. But is it a worthwhile return to form?

Vin Diesel returns to the franchise in “Fast & Furious” as Dom, the elite street racer by night, semi-truck hijacker by later night from the original “The Fast and the Furious”. An international criminal hiding from police in the Dominican Republic, Dom leaves his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, also from the original film), behind when he thinks she’s in danger of being caught with him. Years later, Letty is found dead at the site of a car accident with a bullet in her head. Dom vows vengeance, and the race is on.

Meanwhile, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker)- promoted to FBI agent since the first movie- is assigned to hunt down a notorious drug lord known as Braga who, by sheer force of Hollywood coincidence, is also the man responsible for Letty’s death. Not surprisingly, the only way to catch Braga is by competing in street races. With Dom and Brian both racing to catch the same man, there’s only one question; who will finish first?

If “Fast & Furious” sounds a little light on plot, that’s because it is. Its ‘good guys chase bad guy’ story is as low fat as it gets. Don’t plunk down $9 to see this movie if you want a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what happens next, because you won’t find anything like that here.

What you will find, though, are plenty of eye-poppingly shiny cars moving at breakneck speeds through some of the most outrageous chase sequences in theatres so far this year. “Fast & Furious” doesn’t stop at the street races seen in the first film, either. There are oil truck hijackings, claustrophobic tunnel runs, wide-open drag races, and even some helicopter hijinks at the Mexican border. Unfortunately, there’s also a free runner foot chase thrown into the mix- an all too standard action movie cliché these days.

And speaking of action, the acting in “Fast & Furious” definitely leaves room for improvement. The many two dimensional secondary characters are one thing, but when every lead role is played by a cardboard cutout, the movie isn’t looking to win any awards.

Vin Diesel glares his way through the role of Dom without once changing his tone or expression. Paul Walker does the same, only instead of cool and intimidating, he’s edgy and intense. Everyone else is just there to look pretty, and they do.

The Verdict: “Fast & Furious” is dimwitted fun, but fun nonetheless. It may lack good acting and an interesting plot, but it’s got just enough pedal to the medal action to keep you in your seat. The dialogue is groan inducing, though, and the acting is every bit as bad as you’d expect from a film in the series.

In the grand scheme of things, “Fast & Furious” is just a tiny bit worse than “The Fast and the Furious”. It has all the requisite action of the original without any of its minimally engrossing story. The bottom line is, it’s entertaining but unremarkable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re a fan of the original or just looking for something to look at while scooping popcorn into your mouth, “Fast & Furious” is the movie for you. Otherwise, don’t feel bad skipping it.

2 stars
(out of 4)

(review originally written for RocLoop)

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