- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here’s a long-running belief within the movie geek community that every even-numbered “Star Trek” film is good and every odd-numbered one is crap. The “Fast and the Furious” franchise seems to have spawned a similar pattern, though it operates conversely. While the first entry in the series introduced the world of underground street racing in grand fashion, and “Tokyo Drift” helped rejuvenate the series by moving the action to Japan, the film’s second installment has always been considered the black sheep of the group. With the release of “Fast & Furious,” however, the much criticized sequel is no longer on its own, because despite the highly touted return of its original cast, “Fast & Furious” remains one of the weaker entries in the car porn franchise.
Vin Diesel reprises his role as Dominic Toretto, now hiding out in the Dominican Republic performing highway heists with a new crew (including Sung Kang’s Han from “Tokyo Drift”) after barely escaping arrest. When he receives word that his longtime girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), has been killed while helping a drug lord named Arturo Braga transport drugs across the border, Dominic returns to California to exact revenge. Standing in his way is newly recruited FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), who’s also working on bringing down Braga and his gang. When they discover that Letty’s death wasn’t exactly an accident, however, the duo team up to infiltrate Braga’s operation and take down the drug cartel.
If the story sounds eerily familiar, it’s because “Fast & Furious” is essentially a mix of the first two films. Curiously, while it retools a majority of the plot from the second movie, it acts like that film never existed in the series’ timeline. There’s no explanation as to how O’Connor went from LAPD cop to FBI agent (especially after letting Toretto go), and though it makes several references to the first film and includes a character from the third, it never addresses the time Walker's character spent in Miami. It’s probably for the better, since “2 Fast 2 Furious” was a bit of an embarrassment, but it also shows a total lack of confidence in the mythology. Simply put, if the movie wasn’t good enough to be remembered, then it probably shouldn’t have been made at all.
"Fast & Furious” is never so bad that it fits into that category, but it’s also not quite the return to form that Universal was expecting. For starters, Michelle Rodriguez is in the film for all of ten minutes, and Jordana Brewster (as Dominic's sister Mia) has so little to do that she might as well have been killed off too. Most of the film’s success has been wagered on Diesel and Walker recapturing their chemistry from the first movie, and while they both slide back into their respective roles well, it still feels like something is missing. It’s not a lack of talent (because honestly, neither actor ever really had any), but rather a dependency on the actors to carry the movie instead of the exotic cars.
This time around, the vehicles don’t play as big of a role, and with the exception of a fantastic opening and closing set piece (two of the best the series has ever produced), the film feels more like a generic cop drama than a racing movie. Had director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan just let the cars do their job (move fast, look pretty), the film would have been a lot more fun to sit through. As it stands, “Fast & Furious” is purely a fans-only affair. That was obviously the point of reuniting the original cast, but if the producers were hoping it would reboot the franchise as well, they failed miserably.
Special Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Universal takes Blu-ray to a whole new level with the release of “Fast & Furious.” All of the usual suspects make an appearance – like a director commentary, a trio of production featurettes focusing on the action sequences, and even a lengthy gag reel – but the real highlight of the disc is the game-changing Take Control feature. Though “Watchmen” is technically the first movie to boast this new technology (and it even takes the experience one-step further with additional pop-up extras), Take Control still delivers the same in-depth look at the film as hosted by Justin Lin and Paul Walker. Though it’s only activated for the bigger sequences in the movie, it’s a really cool way for the filmmakers to go into further detail than the typical commentary track. Lin pauses, rewinds and fast-forwards his way through key moments, highlighting things with the help of supplementary material like storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage. It’s truly revolutionary stuff, and Universal doesn’t stop there, either. They’ve also included another Blu-ray exclusive feature called Virtual Car Garage that lets you check out tech specs and build your own custom ride, while the Vin Diesel-directed short film, “Los Bandoleros,” is a fun little prequel to the events that take place at the start of the movie.