Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Movie Review: Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious ** ½
Directed by: Justin Lin.
Written By: Chris Morgan based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson.
Starring: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O'Conner), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), John Ortiz (Campos), Laz Alonso (Fenix Rise), Gal Gadot (Gisele Harabo), Jack Conley (Penning), Shea Whigham (Agent Ben Stasiak), Liza Lapira (Agent Sophie Trinh), Sung Kang (Han Lue).

Fast and Furious is exactly the movie you would expect it to be. It has a bare bones plot, something that seems to be ripped off from an old episode of Miami Vice that is essentially an excuse for the filmmakers to stage one massive car chase after another. The chases are done with skill and speed. Unlike many car chases in the movies, you actually know where the cars are in relation to each other, and the cars feel real. In last year’s Speed Racer, the cars felt so lightweight and false that there was never an impending sense of doom. Not so this time. But shouldn’t a movie be more than just skillful car chases? For me, the answer is yes. But judging on the box office total for this movie, many people seem to disagree with me.

The marketing hook for this movie was that it brought back together the four main actors from the first movie for the first time. After the original, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez bailed, leaving Paul Walker as the last man standing for the sequel. The third film, didn’t even have him. But for whatever reason – most likely money and the fact that none of their careers seem to have really taken off – all four actors are back this time.

Diesel is a natural at action movies. His hulking body, his deep voice and eyes that seem ready to explode out of his skull in a sudden burst of violence, are tailor made for the genre. It is his bad luck that by the time he became famous, action stars had moved away from He Men like Stallone and Schwarzenegger and into more “realistic” heroes like Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Oh well. There is still a market for the He Man, and Diesel does it better than just about anyone. His Dominic Toretto is his signature role – a bad guy you cannot help but like. He lives by a code, and if you cross him, you’re dead. Paul Walker has never struck me as much of an actor, more of a pretty boy, but in an undemanding role like this, he does the job just fine. Michelle Rodriguez is still playing “one of the boys”, as she has in every role she’s ever done. She’s all bluster and posturing, but it’s hard to complain too much since that’s all she’s asked to do. Jordana Brewster is very good as the sweet, not so innocent girl next door, baby sister type. John Ortiz makes a convincing, slimy villain as Campos, who hires drivers to smuggle drugs across the border from Mexico. In all, the actors do what is expected of them and nothing else.

That pretty much sums up the movie. While watching it, you are mildly entertaining by all the action flashing by at light speed, and by the few good lines of dialogue that the screenplay offers. We know what the score of the movie is going to be before the characters do – Walker and Diesel will have to team up to bring down Campos, for differing reasons, things will go bad, they’ll go rogue, and nothing will stop them. This has been the plot of countless action movies before, and it always seemed to work before, so why mess with it?

Perhaps I am too hard on the movie. After all, it is hard to argue that it isn’t the exact film that the filmmakers set out to make, and watching it I was never bored. But I also never really got involved in the story – I didn’t care if and when they brought down the bad guy, because from the outset we know that they will. The movie is an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours, and if that’s all you demand from a movie, then enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment