So once again we have survived.

Fast & Furious

You take the “the”s out, the title becomes more aerodynamic. This unlikely THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS part 4 combines elements of the previous 3: the characters and tone of part 1, the video game plotting and drug kingpin bad guys of part 2, the director and improved visual style of part 3. Combining all the technologies they’ve developed into a new model.

Part 3 might still be my favorite, with its comprehensive visual tribute to everything that looks cool in Tokyo and its charismatic lead performance by Lucas Black (plus Sonny Chiba bit part, Incredible Hulk car and stupid cameo at the end). I was surprised how much I liked that one and even more surprised how many people I know who have no interest in the series liked it too.

Fast & FuriousAh fuck it, I can’t really choose a favorite though. Each one is a beautiful snowflake. The first one I felt like I was laughing at it more than with it, but I gotta admit I fell for Vin Diesel’s performance and Swayzian dedication to macho philosophy. The second one is the funniest and by far most ridiculous and there’s no way John Singleton didn’t know it was hilarious to pimp the Universal logo. The third one is just the most interesting to look at and most likable. The hero is a scrappy well-meaning tough kid instead of some rich boy, cop or thief, and he doesn’t really seem like a part of that whole ridiculous neon car culture from the first two. He’s just a troubled lower class car guy on his third strike who gets into some scuffles. In Japan.

So maybe I’m not coming from the same place as all the people I’ve seen giving this one negative reviews. I really enjoyed it. For me it actually is kind of exciting to see all four original leads return (has that ever happened before? They leave after part 1 and return in part 4?). Diesel doesn’t do as much funny philosophizing, but he’s cool because he’s meaner, he’s out for revenge this time. He keeps his words to a minimum and, unlike in xXx he keeps his outlaw cred intact from beginning to end.

I get a kick out of these movie’s religious faith in cars. They worship their cars and believe they can do magical things. In most movies where a guy is out for revenge, he might chase a guy down in a car but then he’s gonna get out and shoot the guy or whatever, to make it more personal. In a FAST AND (the) FURIOUS movie you stay in your car and run him over, because that is more personal. At one point Diesel uses his car as a bomb, which to a guy of his belief system is a very severe sacrifice. At first I thought his nitrous/dashboard lighter improvised time bomb was a little farfetched. Then I realized he could have planned ahead and optimized the car for that purpose when he prepared it for the mission. But then on third thought I remembered that he lives life a quarter mile at a time, so he’s not allowed to plan that far ahead. So that was some good improv there, Vin.

Because of his strong faith he has some new powers, which is maybe the test of whether or not you’re gonna like the movie. If you roll your eyes at the scene where he investigates an accident site and we see him standing in the middle of the car crash as he pieces together what happened, then this movie is not for you. If that gives you a big shit eating grin like with me then you will like the movie.

Paul Walker is better this time than in the first two. He looks and acts much tougher, like he’s been through more. (He does not mention if he misses Tyrese.) He even has a couple of the best moves:

  1. in a foot chase a guy gets over a fence before him so he just rams the fence to knock the guy on his ass as he tries to gingerly climb down the other side.
  2. when one of his fellow agent comes up to threaten him about tampering with his case, Paul starts bloodying the dude’s face without even saying a word

It’s especially cool to see these characters return in Justin Lin’s jurisdiction. I know he’s a young guy but he shoots it like he’s some Bruckheimer disciple who refused to take part in the black magic ritual where they all vowed to destroy the language of action cinema and declared war on human brains and hearts. He splintered off and went down a good path, so he’s got all that ’80s action movie stuff that Michael Bay and those guys like – tons of dramatic shots looking up at the heroes posing, nice sunsets, crowds of super hot babes in colorful, tight clothing, shiny cars, busy seemingly-realistic law enforcement bureaus doing their jobs… but then he doesn’t have the Avid farts and jarring cuts and dizzying closeups. He keeps it pretty controlled. He pays homage to part 2 with a ridiculously detailed GPS animation of a race and to part 1 by ripping off POINT BREAK with a great foot chase.

I read a review that complained that the opening action sequence is the best one (fair enough) and that it doesn’t make sense to shoot high speed car chases in a dark tunnel. That second one seems like it would be true but I don’t know, I got a kick out of the unnecessary dangerousness of several cars hauling ass right on each other’s tails in a place where one false move could cause a deadly pileup. Maybe a little more TEMPLE OF DOOM mineshaft theatrics would’ve been even funnier but still. I thought it was a worthy entry in the FAST AND FURIOUS catalog of stupid places to drive cars fast.

I’m not a car guy, but I like them in movies. In this one you get good helpings of cars flipping, rolling, jumping, smashing, sliding, skidding, drifting, exploding. You get people jumping out of cars, onto cars, you get even more high speed backwards driving than in any previous entry. There is less emphasis on the flashy neon colored import cars (Walker’s weapon of choice) and more on the American muscle cars Diesel prefers, which is maybe less hilarious but definitely more pleasing to the eye.

At this point Walker’s character Brian O’Connor has gone undercover as a street racer three times. Once to catch Vin Diesel’s character Dom (failed), once to catch some drug kingpin (successful), and now he’s going after a heroin smuggler. The racers in these movies (with the exception of Lucas Black) piss me off because they can just pour money into their cars and don’t give a shit that they seem to go through them faster than underwear. O’Connor has an excuse though, he has the backing of the government, and in this one he gets to look at three screens full of impounded drug dealer cars, and choose his favorites. I think at this point it would be a good idea to set up a special Car Ops division that would take advantage of his talents as well as other experienced street racing agents like his friend Tyrese or the two reggaeton stars with bit parts in this one (in place of Ja Rule and Ludacris).

Speaking of Tyrese, I thought he was supposed to have a cameo, but he doesn’t. I would’ve liked to see Lucas Black in there too, but at least they have his friend Han, who implies (I think) that the events of TOKYO DRIFT have not yet taken place. So maybe there’s a chance for FAST/FURIOUS: RETURN TO TOKYO DRIFT.

By the way, I don’t usually have much interest in the ol’ box office, but I was pretty impressed that this thing made 100 million dollars worldwide in its first weekend. Just imagine how much it could’ve made if I would’ve posted my review earlier. It woulda beat TITANIC already. Anyway, the sweet justice is that my fellow movie nerds made fun of Vin Diesel for coming back to the series that he left, saying it was desperate and pathetic. But I looked it up and it’s his biggest opening ever by a margin of about $25 million. Doesn’t prove it’s a good movie (that’s what this review is for), but does prove it was a good move. Looks like Mr. Giant Pecs won that particular game of Dungeons and Dragons. His prize is he gets to keep talking about doing another Riddick movie, and nobody is allowed to say the usual snarky shit about it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 at 9:00 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Fast & Furious”

  1. c…comments? Wow. Comments. Outlaw Vern will never be the same.

    I haven’t seen this movie, nor am I interested in seeing it. Just had to comment on the comment function. So there. First off-topic comment ever!

  2. I didn’t like the first F&F back in the day, thought it was too much a lame POINT BREAK retake, just instead of bankrobbing surfers, its street racing hijackers. Whatever.

    Though 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS was worse (how did Singleton find a way to make fast cars boring?) and never saw TOKYO DRIFT.

    But I saw FAST & FURIOUS on opening weekend (if because nothing else was out, and already saw the forgettable 12 ROUNDS) and I was surprised to find that I quite enjoyed it inspite of not caring much for the rest of the series.

    I was quite impressed with how Justin Lin shot and cut those car sequences, especially the opening hijacking of the gas tankers. First time in the franchise (that I had seen) where fast cars actually excited me. So because of that at the least, I’ll check out TOKYO DRIFT sometime.

    Anyway, its a B-revenge movie with nothing original, but movies still re-use cliches and conventions because sometimes, we can make them work and still be fresh regardless of useage you know?

    I mean look at the original DIRTY HARRY, where Eastwood threw the badge away. That cliche was older than the hills by 1971, but you know what? Eastwood and Siegel still made it awesome. Well, F&F makes that same turn connect.

    Point is, I had a very good time with F&F and indeed we apparently will get more sequels with Diesel and Walker, and if they keep that same fun vibe and especially bring back Lin, I’ll be there….or Netflix it.

    Speaking of which Vern, its funny you bring up RIDDICK in your last paragraph. You heard that rumor that Universal is trying to buy the rights from Paramount to David Twohy’s script for the aborted ITALIAN JOB sequel?

    FYI, I read a draft from I think 2006, and in quick summation it took place in Brazil, the heroes get framed and forced to do a job for a corrupt cop, and they prevail and kick ass. Again nothing ground-shattering, but it worked…and in basis it would for a F&F sequel.

  3. These films aren’t even a guilty pleasure(whatever the fuck that means anyway).

    They are Pleasure full stop.

    The next ones in Brazil. Break out the goofy swimsuits.

    http://jalopnik.com/5211814/fast-and-the-furious-5-confirmed-going-to-brazil

  4. Jacks Lack of Motivation

    April 15th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Awesome! I just watched this a couple of hours ago, and I get home and Vern is back on the internet and has reviewed it. Good to see.

    I think this is unique among film franchises in that it gets better as they go along? I guess this and Tokyo Drift are kind of on a par but still, it’s a new one on me.

  5. You know there is a question of continuity I don’t think I addressed in this review. In the beginning Han says that he hears “some crazy shit” is going on in Tokyo. Everyone I’ve talked to took this to mean that it takes place before TOKYO DRIFT, or at least during. That Han now goes to Tokyo and will eventually meet up with Lucas Black there.

    But I read somewhere that Vin Diesel directed an 18 minute “prequel short” that explains where the characters were during TOKYO DRIFT. So that is contradictory information there.

    Anyway I think it’s great that the xXx special edition DVD has a really terrible short called “The Death of Xander Cage” that starred Vin Diesel’s stunt double, only shown from the back. Now they have a short like that but not only is Diesel in it, he’s directing it.

    I hope he really goes through with xXx3, and that it’s better than the original. I wonder if Justin Lin is available?

  6. I still think “Fast 4ward 4 Furiousness” would have been a better title for this, but obviously no one asked me.

  7. Jacks Lack of Motivation

    April 19th, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I see you and raise you “The Fast and the Furian” for the next Riddick movie. Which I would be happy to see if they remembered to make it fun, and have more 1000 degree terminators chasing people across prison planets and less clunky world building. Apparently Vin tried to get Dame Judi Dench to play D&D though, that’s genius.

    It would be kind of a shame if the F&F chronology was messed up, I liked the way Han popped up at the start; it wasn’t Pulp Fiction or anything but it was a pretty fancy trick for a third sequel to a straight-ahead action movie. Now I’m going to want a special short feature on the next one which is just a flashback to Rodriguez jumping from cars and stuff.

  8. Are you serious about the Judi Dench thing? I hope so. I would see Fast and Furian. I would also be happy if they just skipped ahead 15 years and it was a post-apocalyptic wasteland where everybody fights over gasoline and nitrous.

  9. Jacks Lack of Motivation

    April 20th, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Yeah, so my Dench expert tells me, from an Empire interview. There’s another interview online where Diesel says that they played it with Karl Urban too. That’s a hell of an image. The man who faced the Rock and Clancy Brown going up against Judi Dench over a bad dice roll.

    That would be too cool. Get Twohy and George Miller on it when Lin tires of the series, it’s already changed direction a few times. Or Neil Marshall if he promises to leave the camera in one place for a while.

  10. I saw this yesterday finally. First F&F movie I’ve seen in theaters since the first one. Overall I liked it, but the polish and visual style wasn’t quite up to par with TOKYO DRIFT, which surprised the hell out of me with how much I enjoyed it. I liked the one liners like O’Conner saying to Dom that “now he owed him a 10 second car” and Dom still calling O’Conner a “buster” too. Also liked how Dom nearly instantly got him that car (even if it was some lame looking hatchback – regardless of how fast it was).

    Is the TOKYO DRIFT Prequel Short going to be on the new FAST & FURIOUS DVD or is it already out? I like the sound of that. I’d take that to mean that Han left for Tokyo, settled in (while F&F reunion was happening) and then I’m guessing this Prequel Short would end where TOKYO DRIFT ended. Unfortunately, that means that Han is still dead, but I like the continuity playing. Han was the coolest seemingly apathetic character of the whole series. Loved that guy.

    One more thing, funny you mentioned TEMPLE OF DOOM for those couple of chases through the mine, I thought it was shot much more like the RETURN OF THE JEDI chase through the inside of the Death Star giving how crammed the quarters were and how many tight turns too.

    All in all, I liked this new one. Hope to see Lin return again to direct and would like to see the scenery change perhaps back to Tokyo and finally have O’Conner completely out of any law enforcement agency. Like to see Lucas Black return too.

  11. I also really enjoyed Walker’s not-really-provoked beating of his co-worker.

  12. So apparantly thanks to the suprising success of this film they’re going ahead with not one, but two! F&F sequals. Creating some kind of car obsessed epic story hopefully branching the tokyo drift world with Diesels. It’s both baffling and kind of awesome that they’ve actually turned a film about car racing into a series this big. I mean that’ll bring us to six furious films. It’s the Star Wars of car racing films. Maybe they’ll just carry on with them forever, introducing new characters to race furiously with each installment in increasingly ridiculous locations.

  13. FAST & FURIOUS: RAIDERS OF THE LOST THES.

  14. I don’t mean to be the asshole here but what the hell are you talking about, 2 star?

  15. Just finished my visitation of the Fast & Furious saga and I really must say (like many others) that part 4 is the best of the series. It just has the least unnecessary meat, but the best action scenes of the series! The script is also pretty good. Nothing groundbreaking or mind blowing, but I liked the few twists it had. Like just when I thought they would spend most of the movie undercover, Vin suddenly blew up his car!
    I hope Fast 5 can keep that level or even raise it. Isn’t even Dwayne Johnson the antagonist in this one?

  16. Despite how much money this made, i really didn’t hear much about it when it came out. Nobody I knew saw it, nobody really talked about it, it sort of seemed like it came and went. People STILL talk about Part 1 being a Point Break ripoff and talk about the homoeroticism of 2, but other than SPOILER Michelle Rodriguez dies SPOILER, i didn’t hear a damn thing about this movie.

    Then in the days leading up to Fast Five it seems everyone started referring to this as “the dark movie” of the series, and when I finally saw it about 2 hours before Fast Five, I have to agree. Oh, and I hated it. Series-worst for me.

    It’s not the darkness that I hated – Dark Knight and Universal Solider: Regeneration are dark and not exactly fun either, but they’re EXCITING and alive. This movie just didn’t connect with me, the villains are weak (what was the point of the Ra’s Al Ghul-esque switcheroo in villains by the way?), the tunnel sequence was just a bad idea and used too much CGI, and there’s just this weird, distant feel to it, like Miami Vice but worse. Sure, Walker is “tougher” but he’s not charming anymore, Diesel is monosyllabic and uninteresting (nowhere near as good as The Rock in a similar role in Faster). Unfortunately, I still think it’s necessary viewing to fully appreciate Fast Five though.

    (By the way, it’s actually pretty amazing how much this movie looks like The Dark Knight. The lighting, the colors – it’s like Lin just told his crew “yeah, make it look like that movie”)

  17. “in a foot chase a guy gets over a fence before him so he just rams the fence to knock the guy on his ass as he tries to gingerly climb down the other side.”

    Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey in The Shield used that same routine in an episode…complete with busting through the fence in the process.

  18. Cocain Smuggling and Taliban Heroin are my two favorite spam bots.

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