Saturday, April 11, 2009

450 - Fast & Furious review



How fast is “Fast & Furious?” It’s so fast that the title lost the word “the” from the title of the original. It’s so fast that the “and” from the original has been turned into an ampersand in order to avoid being slowed down by two extra letters.

How furious is it? Well, series protagonist Toretto (Vin Diesel) finds out that his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is murdered, he looks so mad, scowling and growling and beating up smaller men. It’s so furious that FBI agent O’Connor (Paul Walker) beats up a subordinate in front of his own boss when the case doesn’t go his way, and later he contorts his face in a way that comes dangerously close to resembling acting.

Yep, there’s a lot of anger and speed in “Fast & Furious,” the fourth entry in the brainless car chase series that began with “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001. But I don’t intend to use the word “brainless” in an entirely pejorative sense; there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had by a thought-free romp through the world of underground street racing. The bikini-top girls are pretty, the stunts impressive and well-funded, and I’m told the male leads are quite handsome. You could easily label films like this one to be cousins of the myriad of car chase films that populated drive-in theaters in the 70’s.

But what separates a film like this from those films is that instead of being inspired by a spirit of rebellion and counter-culture, these are inspired by machine-like box office calculation tools that design movies down to the second in order to maximize profits. Of course, those older films were produced to make money, but there was a goofy enthusiasm invested in those pictures, perhaps misguided or juvenile but still present. “Fast & Furious” is utterly soulless as art even as it pulsates as entertainment.

Consider Toretto and O’Connor’s discussion of the necessity of an honor code, a set of rules to live by. Movies love to wax about honor among thieves, even though no such thing exists among lowlifes and crooks. Hijacking trucks is honorable? An undercover FBI agent rocketing down a crowded city street at 110 miles per hour to win a race is honorable? The subsequent events that result in a couple dozen deaths are honorable? A shallow film’s half-assed attempt to gain meaning only serves to highlight the emptiness of what’s behind the glitter. I’ll do the honorable thing and award it 2.5 stars to salute the technical accomplishment while withholding the other 2.5 that represent the content that should have been there.

2.5 out of 5

3 comments:

Mattson Tomlin said...

nice review. haven't seen any of them except the first (and maybe a bit of the second one on tv, i can't remember, it's all a blur) but i was definitely interested by the great trailer this film had.

Christian Toto said...

Soulless ... and a letdown after the furious opening sequence.

Everyone looks bored here ... and I don't wanna see cars racing through tunnels. Yawn.

Am flabbergasted it's made so much $$$ so far.

Blake Badker said...

please hammer, don't hurt em