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Sequel is running on empty



Published: Fri, April 3, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Christy Lemire

‘FAST & FURIOUS’

Vin Diesel is the same guy here as always: the gravelly, low-key, beefy action hero.

Noise, noise, noise. Crunched metal and shattered glass. More noise. Revving engines. Vin Diesel’s giant head. Hot chicks in tight miniskirts. Even more noise. The end.

That’s pretty much all there is to “Fast & Furious,” essentially a remake of the 2001 hit “The Fast and the Furious” with the same cast, except it seems to exist in some parallel universe where the word “the” no longer exists.

It also seems to function outside of logic, cohesive plot structure and the laws of gravity, but hey — this being the fourth film in the street-racing series, such niceties have long since been tossed out the widow and run over repeatedly.

Justin Lin, who also directed part three, 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” piles on the mind-bogglingly elaborate chase scenes and set pieces. (The opening, in which our rebellious heroes attempt to steal gas from a speeding tanker truck, is admittedly a doozy.) But you’ve seen a lot of these sorts of stunts in the previous movies — and heard the same kind of cheesy dialogue — so it’s strange to witness how seriously “Fast & Furious” takes itself, like it’s reinventing the 19-inch wheel or something.

Snarling bad guys, women who pout beautifully and, of course, a wide array of brightly hued, wildly souped-up cars — but not an ounce of creativity or grace. And the fact that it’s so repetitive only magnifies how little this latest installment has to offer.

What’s the movie about, you ask? Well, not that it matters, but Diesel’s fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto is back in Los Angeles and out for revenge. He ends up reluctantly re-teaming with former undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), who infiltrated Dom’s gang and dated his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), in part one. This time, their goal is to take down a drug kingpin who’s behind a murder. Their strategy leads them into a series of ridiculously illegal races, which make the streets of L.A. more dangerous to drive on than they already are. There’s also an enormously convoluted trip into Mexico, which seems to take place only to set up the film’s climactic (and claustrophobic) underground tunnel chase.

Diesel is the same guy here as always: the gravelly, low-key, beefy action hero. He does get to show off his sensitive side, though, when Dom sits awake at night, watching his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) peacefully sleep. Walker, meanwhile, eerily resembles Alex Rodriguez as he inches into his mid-30s: same eyes, same mouth, same blank expression on his face.

If you’re into automotive minutiae, you’ll probably get off on the details here. And if you’re into gratuitous shots of women making out with each other, well, you may sporadically enjoy yourself, as well. But if you like you use your brain ... dude. Drive on.


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