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Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature Commentary with Justin Lin; Driving School With Vin Diesel; South Of The Boarder: Filming in Mexico; Gag Reel.

THE return of all four original cast members to the Fast & Furious franchise undoubtedly makes for an intriguing prospect. But while their reunion is mostly fun in a brain-dead kind of way, the movie isn’t always a complete success.

Justin Lin, of Tokyo Drift fame, ensures the action is kept in high gear throughout and throws in innumerable set pieces to dazzle, but they only serve to mask just how light the plot is, or how shallow the character development, when a little more face-time wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The plot – as such – finds fugitive underground street racer and one-time heist specialist Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) returning to America to avenge the death of a colleague. In doing so, he picks up his friendship and rivalry with undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), as the two become unlikely allies in attempting to bring down a drug lord (John Ortiz) who is using fast drivers as high-speed mules to smuggle his illegal substance across the Mexican border.

Joining the mayhem, meanwhile, are returning love interests Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster).

Early on, Lin’s film sets a cracking pace and sets up a number of intriguing possibilities that it fails to properly realise. An opening lorry hijack set in the Dominican Republic is brilliantly staged and succeeds in getting the adrenaline flowing, while a foot chase involving Walker’s cop in downtown LA is also as good as anything in the Bourne franchise, while tipping its hat to the genre-defining style of Point Break.

There’s also fun to be found in watching the characters reunite and overcome their early grievances, while the usual quota of girls, cars and illegal street races keep the energy levels high.

But while Fast & Furious boasts plenty of style, it crucially lacks any substance – a failing made all the more glaring by its failure to turn the surprise death of one character into anything really involving.

By keeping things action-driven, Lin neglects to offer any real emotional investment that deprives the characters from really growing, or exploring the emotional complexity of their continued development. It’s an indulgence he could have afforded given the enduring popularity of the characters (as evidenced by the healthy US box office, which is now a franchise record).

Taken as a guilty pleasure, Fast & Furious is full of crowd-pleasing moments and offers exactly what it says on the label. But you may depart feeling a little cheated and even underwhelmed by the outcome of the drug dealer story, particularly as the final chase sequence involving underground tunnels fails to recapture the excitement of its early set pieces.

That said, a final act development involving Toretto’s character does, at least, set up even more tantalising possibilities for a fifth entry in the franchise, which all but looks assured given its US performance.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 21, 2009