Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Movie Review:Fast and Furious

Every so often a franchise goes off the rails. It happened to Batman when Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman and Robin combined to drive hammer blow after hammer blow into the once-entertaining franchise as all the good elements were removed in favor of horrific, cartoonish plots, pathetic villains, and who can forget the infamous nippled Batsuit? Fortunately, it was reinvigorated with Batman Begins and we all know how the sequel to that one went.

It happened to Superman in Superman III and, unfortunately, went much further into the depths of forgettableness with that awful reset Superman Returns. 

Well, somewhere along the line, Fast and Furious lost its cachet. When The Fast and the Furious (itself a remake, by the way...) first hit in 2001, it was very exciting. Featured star Paul Walker was upstaged by newcomer Vin Diesel, the cars were stars, the story entertaining, and the entire package worked really well. 

In 2 Fast 2 Furious it started going off the rails. They tried to replicate the brooding good guy/bad guy coolness of Dom (Vin Diesel) in the first movie with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson). Unfortunately, the situation was a bit too contrived. Instead of the gritty underground  street racing crowd with a working camaraderie that was believable, it went with the glitz of Miami and focusing the camera on Eva Mendes not to further the story but just because she looks good. Which, of course, she does...but it was gratuitous instead of for a point.

By Tokyo Drift the franchise had lost both primary stars, all the secondary stars, and the "feel" that made the first one so fun and such a pleasant surprise.

In Fast and Furious (2009) the franchise returns to its roots. Once again Dom is the brooding leader of a law-breaking band of pseudo-Robin Hoods. 

There are nice subtle touches such as the Iguana belonging to the truck driver they rob. There is precision driving, a car-load of hot cars, hot driving, fun chases, just enough story to tie it all together, and loads of action.

If there is a quibble with this movie it is that much of the action is filmed in what has been all the rage lately...replacing genuine action scenes, particularly car chases, with hyper-active cuts of such rapidity that you can not always tell who is doing what to whom. That is unfortunate, because what you could see of the car chases, particularly the two that went through the tunnels, was spectacular.

This is a fun movie that somehow, despite the overtly maudlin nature of Dom's motivation, skirts the edge of getting too brooding and corny to deliver an entertaining hour and forty minutes that is well worth seeing if you enjoyed any of the other movies in the franchise.

In bringing back Walker and Diesel they brought back the heart of the franchise and it worked.