Fast & Furious Justin Lin

Fast & Furious Justin Lin
I am a huge and totally unapologetic Vin Diesel fan, and I have to admit even I was fairly sceptical about the potential merits of the fourth film in the Fast/Furious franchise. What kind of desperation drives a studio to even consider bringing back the original cast eight years after the fact?

Perhaps my scepticism had more to do with the fact that I'm not interested in cars and found the original Fast and the Furious to be the dullest of Vin's films. Give me The Pacifier or Babylon A.D. any day.

The film starts predictably enough, with a highway gas tanker hijacking by Dom (Diesel) and his crew. The film then quickly brings us up to speed on the characters' lives. Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are still in love and still running from the law; O'Connor (Paul Walker) is still a bad boy F.B.I. agent whose Bureau rivals think he's a jerk but are infinitely less cool than him; and Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is still mad at O'Connor for making her fall in love with him and then tearing her family apart. The rest of the plot doesn't really matter — you're watching for car chases, spectacular crashes and Vin's silky voice, right?

And there are some great crashes and driving sequences — the extended underground tunnel chase is pretty creative. Fast & Furious is dumb, loud and fun but not the extravaganza of high-octane awesomeness that I was hoping for. It's a good fourth film but not what you want when they bring back the entire original cast for a chase-filled reunion. And unfortunately, the film's writers didn't seem to think their audience would be too clever, because every plot point is explained so painstakingly that after a while it becomes tiresome to be spoon-fed such obvious twists.

Beyond the car stuff, a highlight was seeing Paul Walker deliver a deft arm-bar during a fight sequence — apparently the guy starts each day with three hours of mixed martial arts training. I hope "Paul gets to show off his MMA skills" was in his contract. (Universal)