Fast & Furious (2009)

Weirdly, Fast & Furious could be the first actual sequel in the series. It’s the first movie that brings together most of the cast from The Fast and the Furious and the first movie that feels connected in some way to the narrative, as tenuous as that is. It isn’t primarily about street-racing and really only uses the community as a backdrop, focusing instead on the criminal element.

Of course, the cars are still important and car chases are generally how things get done. Those used to the vibe of the previous two pictures – 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – will probably find something to dig about Fast & Furious, but the easygoing mood is absent and the film is less a party and more a crime drama with B-movie car stunts.

Vin Diesel is back in the saddle as Dominic Toretto, an ex-con and car guy wanted for a number of truck hijackings. He’s working with a crew that includes his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) when the heat gets to be a little too much and he bails to Panama City, leaving his woman behind. Trouble brews when Dominic is informed by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) that Letty has been killed.

This sets up a scenario in which Dominic crosses paths with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), now an FBI agent tracking a Mexican drug lord (John Ortiz). The two collide when Dominic’s informal investigation of Letty’s killer takes him to the drug lord’s associates. Dominic and Brian are forced to rehash the events of The Fast and the Furious and must find a way to work together.

It is good to have Diesel back in the series and his presence brings something to the picture that was absent from the previous two. That’s not to say that Fast & Furious is a better picture, but there are some elements worth hanging on to. In truth, Justin Lin’s second outing in the director’s chair is a bit of a bland ride. It lacks the quickness and energy of the rest of the series and tends to drag its feet.

There’s certainly something to be said for Dominic’s admirable focus as a character. He is stanch and he gets the job done. There is something dependable about him and the way he saunters through the movie draining Corona and brushing off the advances of Braga’s liaison (Gal Gadot). He is a solid counterpoint to Walker’s O’Conner and it’s nice to have him around.

Much of Fast & Furious is preposterous. The opening robbery sequence is hilariously implausible, with a Bugs Bunny-type theft and a ridiculous road that no truck would ever drive on. The chase sequences lack clarity and scale, so it can be hard to tell where cars are coming from and where they’re going. This is especially notable in the final sequence.

There’s less gloss and magic in Fast & Furious and, for all its B-movie clichés, it feels like a much slower ride. It lacks the colour of Tokyo Drift and the lifestyle loonies of 2 Fast 2 Furious. It attempts to ground the series somewhat and that’s not necessarily a great idea, especially when the fun factor is less apparent.

With Fast & Furious, it looks like the series that prided itself on fast cars and fast shots of fast women has gotten a touch too serious for its own good. Perhaps it’s that the series is dragging on too long or perhaps it’s too disseminated for its own good, but the first real sequel in producer Neil Mortiz’s series runs in a lower gear than its predecessors.

Trailer:

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