Paul Walker as F.B.I. Agent Brian O'Conner, back for another burst of speed, fire included, in "Fast & Furious", directed by Justin Lin.
The film opened in theaters this morning at midnight in the U.S. and Canada in select city screenings.  (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Fast & Furious
Cars On Fire.  Men Too.
By Omar P.L. Moore/   SHARE
Friday, April 3, 2009
Justin Lin directs "Fast & Furious" in high-octane style with voyeuristic, fetish-like looks at cars, chrome and chassis.  If ever there were a swimsuit magazine edition for cars, Mr. Lin's new film would fit well as a perfect advertisement.  Vin Diesel returns as Dom Torretto, a fugitive still on the lam, and Paul Walker, after going solo in the previous sequel (also helmed by Mr. Lin), "The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006), reprises his role as Brian O'Conner, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent trying to bring Dom to justice.  Tangled relationships, romances, the past and all manner of loyalties don't make that an easy task.

The film begins in the Dominican Republic, shifting to other locales (Panama, Los Angeles, etc.) spotlighting characters including Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, returning to the franchise as an alumna of the original "The Fast And The Furious", a hit in 2001.  In this latest model of the movie series an elusive Mexican drug lord named Campos (a performance of sly, cheeky flair by John Ortiz) is daring the F.B.I. to catch-me-if-you-can.  There are plenty of cars, chases and crashes of course, plus a brief sexual interlude, a few stunts, lots of R-rating-skirting violence, an occasional laugh and not much else.  The plot (written by Chris Morgan, characters by Gary Scott Thompson) is threadbare, allowing for a chuckle or gasp at the way code and honor are either sabotaged or put to the test, and there's the usual shots of scantily-clad women forming a "shake-your-booty" display of size-zero 20-somethings that belong (or rather don't) in a music video. 

Hulking muscle, snarls and tattoos are the order of the day, an urban tapestry in the noisy, ferocious manner of Mr. Lin's direction, aspects of which echo director Tony Scott's volcanic and visceral style.  "Fast And Furious", which opened early this morning at special midnight screenings in select cities in the U.S. and Canada, borrows the subtitle format of Mr. Scott's "Man On Fire" (2004) -- subtitles that float, shout and are italicized -- to convey both an urgency and energy the film needn't muster, for the opening scene alone does enough to justify the reversal of the blues song "built for comfort, not built for speed", via the great blues legend Howlin' Wolf.

Mr. Walker has little to do here as the embattled G-man, while Mr. Diesel has a field day with one-liners, delivered in trademark droll-drawl fashion, including one somewhat memorable line midway through.  Mr. Diesel gives Dom a knowing charm and cool, his presence mellowing out some of the hyperactive pace of Mr. Lin's film, in which the cars are the real stars.

With: Laz Alonso (great in "Miracle At St. Anna" last year but disappointing here as Fenix, a caricature that the days of blackface minstrelsy would have warmly embraced), Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot, Jack Conley, Shea Whigham and Liza Lapira.
"Fast And Furious" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.  The film's running time is one hour and 47 minutes.  In English and Spanish languages with English subtitles.
Watch: The Popcorn Reel YouTube Review of "Fast & Furious"

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2009.  All Rights Reserved.



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