Movie News & Reviews

'Fast & Furious' stars walk through their roles, and the action is artificial

Fast and Superfluous should be the title of the fourth film in the Fast/Furious franchise, a tepid, repetitive and digitally augmented hot cars-hot women thriller that might probably won't give Vin Diesel and Paul Walker the career boost that The Fast and the Furious did.

Fast and Furious welcomes Diesel back into the franchise that made him — and shows that he has lost his fastball. Reprising the hard-driving, hard-living Dom Torreto, Diesel reduces his performance to stillness — long stares, poses and limited bits of action. He's not Eastwood, so this approach has only limited success.

Dom and his team (Michelle Rodriguez and Sung Kang, also back) are in the Dominican Republic, hijacking gasoline super-tankers. But the law is closing in on Dom. Then a death back home lures him to L.A., where he vows revenge on the drug lord who killed a loved one.

FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Walker) is after the same mobster. And when these rivals figure out that the Mexican mob needs fast drivers to deliver their drugs, it's on.

These movies have always been about the "10-second cars," the "tuners." Assorted muscle cars take their bows. Plot is secondary, the characters archetypal. The performances have steadily fallen off as the movies Tokyo-drifted further from that gonzo first film (itself a remake of a B-movie from the '50s). As right as it feels to have Diesel and Walker return to the roles, Fast & Furious shows a serious downshift in testosterone. Walker's character no longer calls everybody "bro." He wears a suit. Diesel, humbled by a career that peaked right after the 2001 film, has lost his strut. Too much happens as if by rote. Brian and Dom's sister (Jordana Brewster) need to hook up again. No rhyme or reason to it. They just do.

The racing and wrecks in this are digital absurdities. The big action beat is a line of muscle cars hurtling through an abandoned mine on the Mexican border. (Universal Studios' next theme park ride?)

Just enough of this works to keep this clunker out of the ditch.

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