Justin Lin | 2009 | 107 mins | USA
I am a totally unapologetic Vin Diesel completist, and I have to admit even I was fairly skeptical about the potential merits of the fourth film in the Fast/Furious franchise. What kind of desperation drives a studio to even consider a full original cast bring-back eight years after the fact, anyway? Perhaps my skepticism had more to do with the fact that I'm not all that interested in cars, and found the original Fast and the Furious to be the dullest of Vin Diesel's films. I even preferred The Pacifier. Y'know?
The film starts predictably enough, with a highway gas tanker hijacking by Dom (Diesel) and his crew. The story then quickly catches us up on the characters' lives - Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodrigues) are still runnin' from the law, O'Connor (Paul Walker) is still a bad boy FBI agent, and Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is still mad at O'Connor for making her fall in love with him and tearing her family apart. The rest of the plot doesn't really matter. You're watching for Vin's silky voice and to imagine yourself curling up in his big arms in the front seat of a souped up Torino, right?
The screenwriters were obviously advised of the fact that the anticipated audience weren't gonna be too clever, so they take care to set up and explain every plot point slowly and methodically, lest you lose your way in the story's clever twists and turns. A couple of creative chase sequences in some underground tunnels stand out. Otherwise Fast & Furious is dumb, loud and fun, but not the extravaganza of high-octane awesomeness that I was hoping for from Vin's return to the series. If he'd asked me, I would have recommended he pass on this script in favour of xXx: Trinity*, but whatever.
Two facts that I learned from a quiz found in a copy of "Famous" magazine in the theatre lobby infinitely increased my enjoyment of the film. I'll share them with you. No spoilers, I promise:
1. Paul Walker starts each day with three hours of MMA training. This fact makes the one unexpected arm-bar he delivers in Fast & Furious all the more triumphant and hilarious.
2. Vin Diesel once wrote an introduction to a book about the history of Dungeons and Dragons. When you think about him as a nerd deep down inside, every line he delivers about 'engine grease' and 'throttle' is a genuine delight.
*xXx: Trinity is not a real thing, but wouldn't it be awesome if it was?