BY TIMOTHY RABB
Daily Arts Writer
Published March 29, 2009
“Fast & Furious”
Universal Pictures/One Race Films
At Quality 16 and Showcase
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2 out of 5 stars
If the entire presentation of “Fast & Furious” had maintained the nail-biting tension of the opening sequence, the film may very well have garnered a better reaction from its audience. Unfortunately, the stunning display of strategic cinematography evident in the film’s introduction is quickly forgotten, as the film digresses from the action and unsuccessfully attempts to get serious.
Vin Diesel (“Pitch Black”) and Paul Walker (“Flags of Our Fathers”) return to reprise their roles for a fourth installment in the series that carries the concept of hegemonic masculinity to obscene extremes while inducing laughter at inopportune times.
The plot focuses on Dominic Toretto (Diesel), a playboy con man who steals to feed his adrenaline addiction, which he apparently also satiates via illegal street racing. In the course of the film, a tragic occurrence forces Toretto to salvage his strained relationship with law officer Brian O’Conner (Walker) to bring a barbarous heroin dealer to justice. Director Justin Lin (“Better Luck Tomorrow”) borrows heavily from popular action films of the 1980s to create his own cheesy montage of melodrama with forced acting and cliché quips to boot.
In spite of the film’s all-too-apparent flaws, it seems to possess a self-awareness uncommon among most modern action films. The “alpha male” roles played by Diesel and Walker entail such grossly exaggerated speech and action that one realizes the film may not actually be proud of how cheeky it is. This lends a carefree tone to the narrative, but doesn’t cancel out the painful redundancy of watching Diesel try to deliver lines worthy of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator.” The expression on his face hints that even he knows how contrived the script is.
But where "Fast & Furious" fails the most is in its appeal to hardcore racing fans. The high level of action presented at the beginning is not maintained for the length of the film. Justin Lin should have stuck to rigorous pacing and given more than a mere taste of action.
Though “Fast & Furious” has a few good action sequences and some clever self-referential humor, the majority of the film’s content is just evidence of Vin Diesel’s fall from grace. That’s disappointing, considering how scant his acting roles have been recently and how some of his previous work revealed some real potential in his acting ability. Vin Diesel fans should remember him for the actor he was, rather than the actor he has apparently become. Go watch “Pitch Black,” savor the nostalgia and maybe think about watching this film when it comes out on DVD.