Short Version: It’s The Fast and The Furious franchise we’re talking about here – either you already love it or already hate it for what it is, and Fast & Furious will do little to change your mind either way.

Screen Rant Reviews Fast & Furious

By now you should know exactly what The Fast and the Furious franchise is all about: Candy-colored cars, candy-colored babes, tough guys performing crazy racing sequences and somewhere in all that eye candy, something of a plot. The franchise’s fourth installment, Fast & Furious, tries to show a little growth by injecting a “serious” plotline into the mix, but as is the case with every other installment of the series, that plotline falls way behind the pretty cars, pretty people and pretty crazy car stunts fans have come to love.

Here’s the quick rundown of the “plot” this time around: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his sweetheart Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are still out there in the world doing what they do best: leading a team of highway pirates on high-speed hijacking runs. Dom and Letty have been on the run ever since undercover FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) let them walk at the end of the first film, and with every new extravagant hijacking, the law picks up on Toretto’s trail again, forcing him and Letty to go back on the lamb and start all over again in a new place.

After so much running, Dom decides that Letty, whom he loves more than anything, is only going to get hurt being around him when there is such a big target on his back. He decides that what’s best for her and everyone he loves is for him to go his own way. And so he does.

The consequences of that decision eventually draw Toretto back to Los Angeles, looking for revenge against a Mexican drug cartel who have been using street racers as coyotes for smuggling heroin across the U.S./Mexican border. While Toretto uses his street-thug tactics to infiltrate the cartel, agent Brian O’Connor (now a full-fledged FBI suit) uses his G-man authority and experience in the street racing circuit to infiltrate the same cartel. Toretto and O’Connor of course end up side-by-side undercover as the two best drivers on the cartel’s team, rekindling their uneasy friendship in order to bring the bad guys down, Fast & Furious style.

Justin Lin, who directed the series’ last installment, Tokoyo Drift, does an okay job at the helm this time around. The action sequences are gnarly, and the rest of the time… really, who is paying that much attention to the cinematography the rest of the time? The direction is not so bad that it makes you cringe, but it’s not going to win any awards either. As I said, the action sequences are the meat and potatoes in these films, and in this case they are executed pretty well.

The “actors” in the film (Diesel, Walker and amber-skinned hottie Jordana Brewster reprising her role as Toretto’s sister/O’Connor’s love interest) are just as stiff and robotic as ever, a fact even more noticeable in this film since the script calls for “emotional resonance.” That’s OK with me though: these aren’t characters I expect to be sitting around getting in touch with their feelings. They express themselves behind the wheel, and the stunt cars do all the emoting the actors can’t.

Something that was missing from Fast & Furious, however, was the sense of fun and camp that has helped define previous installments of the franchise. The “serious” plot is a deterrent to any kind of humor, and the jokes that do find their way into the script are mostly corny inside ones, winking back at earlier installments of the series. A perfect example: a street racer who is feeling the heat coming down decides to leave the country, exclaiming, “I hear they’re doing some pretty crazy stuff over in Tokyo.” (Wink, wink.)

In the end, those who were fans of the original Fast and the Furious will get a kick out of seeing that story carry on in Fast & Furious. Those who were disgusted by the first film will steer well clear of this installment as well; those who liked the first film but have been disappointed by each subsequent sequel, will maybe have their love of the franchise rekindled, maybe not.

Two things are certain, however: Fast & Furious has enough of a built-in fanbase to rake in a ton of money at the box office, and it will likely be enough money to warrant another sequel. This franchi$e is not going to be driving off into the sunset anytime soon, for better or for worse.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5