Fast & Furious

Twitter users could fit everything that makes a lick of sense in Fast and Furious on a single 140-character tweet, and still have room to review the movie as "IMHO idiotic but fun. hate myself for getting off on hot cars, hotter women. bad dialogue enjoyable, also exhausting. two hours of life hijacked. no hope of recovery."

Take the title — whaaaat! The Fast and the Furious came out in 2001. Isn't it early for a remake? Easy, there. Though shamelessly redundant, Fast and Furious is technically a follow-up, not a redo. Studio brainiacs simply zapped the title of the pesky "the" — both of them — and, presto, everything old is new again. Yeah, but what about the first two sequels — 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which Vin Diesel wisely opted out of? Diesel is back, along with his original co-star, Paul Walker, making this a fresh start, kind of. So just when you're going, "I get it, this is the fourth chapter in the franchise" — I have to stop you. Fast and Furious is actually the prequel to Tokyo Drift, which makes it Chapter Three.

Oh, fuck it! If you care about this movie — and multitudes do — you'll figure it out. Newbies aren't likely to play catchup. Look at the diminishing box-office results: The first one grossed $145 million, the second (without Diesel but with Walker) did $127 million, the third (without either) limped to $63 million. That blows the theory that audiences are just in it for the cars. So coaxing Diesel back was crucial.

Is Diesel worth his fat paycheck? I'd say yup. The former bouncer has always been a better actor than his rep would have it — check him out in Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, Pitch Black and Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty. The problem is that Diesel let his brawn and basso rumble trap him in caveman junk such as xXx, The Chronicles of Riddick and Babylon A.D. until he became a literal joke as a baby sitter in The Pacifier (a hit, by the way). You could look at Diesel's return as Dom as crass capitulation to image whoring. Or you could just go with the dumb flow and watch him make a wicked tease of the role that put him on top.

We pick up Diesel's fugitive ex-con, Dominic Toretto, when he sneaks back to Los Angeles for a friend's funeral (we know who got murdered, and we ain't tellin'). Dom wants revenge; so does Brian O'Connor (Walker), a federal agent who wronged him. The police are chasing Dom, but despite his bulk, eye-catchingly tight T-shirts and habit of flooring it on city streets, the cops can't nab the dude. Instead of cuffing Dom, Brian joins the big lug to catch a Mexican heroin importer whose business conveniently involves drag-racing. As the movie detours in lesbo action and toe-sucking (you heard me), the link to logic in Chris Morgan's script evaporates.

That said, the movie is a used car that can occasionally choke to life and burn up the road. Diesel and Walker look jazzed to be beating the shit out of each other and then making up. Despite past betrayals, these two have a history. Brian still loves Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom's sister. And Dom pines for Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), even though bad-girl Gisele (Gal Gadot) is panting to get under his hood.

The babes don't stand a chance against the cars. Muscle or import, they're all sex objects (props to the Lamborghini LM002). Director Justin Lin (Tokyo Drift) still hasn't learned film geography. Even the kinetic tunnel races, meant to nitrocharge the movie, fall flat from spatial incoherence. You barely know what's happening, and to whom.

And yet I can see why Fast and Furious might be a smash as audiences look for escape from a broken economy. All those wheelies and power slides are designed to obliterate thought, not provoke it. Talk about a movie for its time.

From The Archives Issue 151: January 3, 1974