Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fast Aging Cheese Will Leave You Furious

Fast and Furious

I have had a peculiar fondness for The Fast and The Furious series since the beginning. 2001’s The Fast and The Furious is one of those guilty pleasures, similar to The Mummy Returns, for which I can watch over and over. Sure it is basically the low rent car version of Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break; which in itself was a knock off of numerous films before it. Yet there is something about the film the simply works for me. I think it is the fact that at no point does the film try to be more than it really is; an over-the-top action flick with a few cool looking cars. Despite my fondness of the original I did not think another Furious movie, let alone three, was necessary.

The sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, was by far the worst film in the series. Yet it provided me with one of the most memorable theatre going experiences I have ever had. I saw the film while vacationing in Barbados with a fully vocal and interactive audience. It was comparable to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween. The comments from the crowd were priceless, I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard at a non-comedic film.

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift caught my attention mainly due to the director, Justin Lin. Having directed the vastly underrated film Better Luck Tomorrow, which was one of my favourite film at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, I have been interested in Lin’s work ever since. Although Annapolis was definitely a step in the wrong direction, I was not quite willing to give up on Lin just yet. Though not on par with first flick Tokyo Drift was still a “more enjoyable than it really should be” kind of movie. The type of mindless picture that would help pass the time on a lazy afternoon. The “drift racing”, if nothing else, added a fun new aspect to the series. Lin also showed that he could bring fresh action sequences to a dated series.

Just when I thought the franchise was finally about to hit the retirement home, this year saw the release of yet another high octane low substance entry simply titled Fast and Furious. A movie that is a firm believer in the motto “everything old is new again”. Not only is Justin Lin back in the directing chair but the original cast members, from the good old days when “The” was allowed in movie titles, are back as well. The latest flick is meant to be a sequel to the first two films, and a prequel to the third one. Not that it really matters that much, continuity was never this franchise’s strong suit. In the latest installment, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has been reinstated in the FBI and is tracking a drug kingpin in L.A. As luck would have it, Bad Boy Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), still on the run from the law, returns to L.A. to settle some personal business with the exact same drug lord. Funny how coincidences like this conveniently happen…but I digress. The only way for both Brian and Dominic to get close to the mysterious man at the top is through the world of underground street racing. Despite the unfinished business between them, Brian and Dominic must put their differences aside if they hope to successfully infiltrate the drug cartel.

While it is nice to see the whole gang altogether again, it would have been even better if the writers actually gave them something to do. This is most noticeable with Jordana Brewster’s character, Mia. Her sole role in the entire movie is to worry about her brother and make out with Brian. To make matters worse, Brewster’s performance in the film is as wooden as it gets. Some of the background extras in the moved showed more range than Jordana did in this movie. Michelle Rodriguez is barely in the movie which is a shame. Rodriguez was more exciting to watch in her brief appearance than any of Brewster scenes.

As the female characters are pretty much no existent in the movie, Fast and Furious ultimately becomes the Vin Diesel and Paul Walker show. With the focus solely on the testosterone it is rather odd that the writers tried to cram in so much in the movie. The movie spend so much time trying to set up a plausible back-story for reuniting Brian and Dominic that they forget the basic element that made the series so financially successful in the first place…the cars. The characters spend more time talking than they do driving in the film. This would be fine if they were actually saying something significant, but alas that is not the case here. The majority of the time the audience knows what the next line will be before it is even uttered. By bringing more attention to the weak plot, it is practically impossible for Justin Lin to cover up the many holes in the story. Sure the few action sequences are nice, but nothing thrilling. In the end this “reboot” just enforces the fact that after a while even the guiltiest of pleasure are no longer exciting.

For more reviews from 2009 click here

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