Action Movie Friday: Fast & Furious

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Fast & Furious
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2009
Genre: Action, Crime, Racing
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, John Ortiz, Laz Alonsio, Gal Gadot, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Distributor: Universal
Budget: $85 Million
Box Office: $363 Million

okay, I’ve got nothing on this trailer. What is this movie about again? I mean seriously now, come on!

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 28%

Gingersnaps Rating: Three Cookies!

So, this week we continue with the Fast and the Furious franchise put out by Universal and perhaps the biggest thing that Vin Diesel is known for. We’re skipping number 3, not only because I don’t own it, but also because it has been retconned into some sort of epilogue for the entire series and I’m not touching it until I know exactly where it belongs plot wise.

Summary:

Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) are still using cars to help with theft south of the border. But the law is hot on Dom’s trail and despite Letty saying they can figure it out, Dom breaks it off, leaves her, runs and hides. This works for a time until Mia (Brewster) calls and informs him Letty has been murdered. Now, he’s angry and hot on the trail of whoever murdered his girl. While Brian O’Conner (Walker) has been instated as a FBI agent and is back in Los Angeles to try and bring down the drug cartel kingpin Braga and he’s on a time table. Two evidence trails lead them to the same guy and it’s only a matter of time before Brian and Dom have to figure out are they on opposing or the same side. Somehow Dom will get revenge for Letty and Brian will get his man, even if they almost have to kill each other to do it.

Review:

Due to lagging sales numbers with Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal begged Vin Diesel to come back to the team. And in doing so, they made a lot of concessions. This movie made the franchise Vin’s project and so the fourth in the series became more of a “how do we get the old team together and make a nod to the third movie so it feels like part of the whole,” than ‘let’s write a crime action caper flick on an $85 Million budget.” Thus, we have to resolve all the dangling plot lines from the first movie, including how badly Brian betrayed Dom and how much this hurt Mia, adding a rather soap opera-ish element to the entire movie.

Numbers wise, this movie almost did double it’s budget in the United States alone. Vin Diesel being a huge draw to get everyone interested again. The movie made back it’s budget in Blu-Ray and DVD sales alone according to By the Numbers.com for as long as they kept track of it. It was pretty obvious that it was going to get another installment and was a qualified success. They were banking on it given the last scene of the movie.

If you want to know everything wrong with the plot of this picture, look no further than Cinema Sins. Just be prepared to log into Youtube to do so. (I’m not liking this.)

The plot here is fairly straightforward once you know what is going on. They throw a twist on at the end to try and catch you by ‘surprise,’ but if you’re paying attention, it isn’t much of one. Through a series of sloppy work by the FBI, some coincidences and the idea that Brian and Dom are smarter than a whole FBI task force put together when they work together. It makes for a somewhat entertaining movie, but we don’t really learn anything new about the characters because we’re far too busy avenging Letty and rehashing what happened five years movie time earlier in movie one. It takes itself far to seriously for it’s own good. Especially, when we left Brian at the end of movie 2 as a guy who’d scammed Customs out of a bunch of money taking down yet another Drug Cartel kingpin. In fact, you’d think all the drug cartels would know his face by now and know he’s a guy to stay away from. It doesn’t make sense that after he’d been a fugitive and a lowly undercover cop who hadn’t even made detective yet, that the FBI would scout and hire him.

Unlike Carter Verone, Braga is too caught up in his own cleverness to be a compelling villain. There is nothing about Braga that seems to inspire the loyalty he claims to possess. In fact, the movie spends more time telling us about the die hard loyalty of Braga’s men and women without showing any of it. (In fact, Gisele almost instantly betrays him after Dom saves her life, all because she likes Dom’s soulful eyes.)

I’m conflicted. This could have been played differently, a lot differently. It feels like the team decided they needed a giant reset button to the series so they would hope people would forget about movies 2 and 3 that didn’t include Vin Diesel. So, in a way, this whole plot was a step backwards instead of a step forwards. You have to remember that this is a franchise where we the audience is supposed to be rooting for the bad guys. These bad guys show no remorse for stealing and in fact the one ‘good’ guy, is forced to apologize to the ‘bad’ guys for doing his job and being on the ‘right’ side of the law. The only saving grace of these ‘bad’ guys is that they’re better than the ‘evil’ guys they’re now going up against. The bad guys only steal things and race illegally. The evil guys sell drugs and kill people for just being part of their operations.

I’ve got to work with what I’ve got. Does the plot work? Yes. Does it do anything new? No. Bad guys versus evil guys. Bad guys win and leave good guys looking like fools. I’m taking half a cookie because they missed a huge opportunity for growth on Dom’s part and him going to Brian instead of the other way around. (That and killing off Letty wasn’t necessary.)

Not only did we hit a reset button on plot, the team hit the reset button on world building. In Fast 1 & 2, the physics were barely plausible. (I can’t say for 3, haven’t watched it.) In 4, we’ve gone from barely plausible to impossible. And it only gets worse from here. It feels because the Fast Franchise was now in competition with the Transporter Franchise, the stunts had to be upped in order to draw an audience and so that people wouldn’t say “I saw something better in the Transporter.” Physics be hanged. So, in the first ten minutes we get to see Dom do impossible things which continues for the entire movie. And then we’ve lost that element from the first two movies about how hard it is to control a car going at high rates of speed. Also, given how many times these two crash, they should be dead. Only because in the context of the movie things remain somewhat consistent, I won’t take off a cookie. (Though they’ve seem to forgotten that in the first movie, Dom drove a tuner just like everyone else and only for the last ten minutes did he pull out the American Muscle.)

There weren’t any gratuitous explosions.  Dom exploding his car and everyone else’s cars almost counted but he did it on purpose which sort of takes the fun out of it. Because it got all the cars when it probably shouldn’t have, I’ll take only half a cookie.

All right, Letty dies. Mia exists to be wooed back to Brian’s embrace. The most Mia does is tell Brian to get over himself. Giselle exists to be rescued by Dom and give him the way to get to Braga. FBI agent girl takes orders and plays around on computers (does she even have a name? Oh, Sophi Trinh) I am still waiting for the ladies in this series to do something important. (I know it is coming but this is getting ridiculous.) So, minus a cookie.

Lastly the fights, were they entertaining? Well, they were certainly predictable. There weren’t many of them. And when it came down to it they were the same types of all out slug fests that we saw in the first movie. Yes, we knew that Dom was going to go after Brian when he found out Letty was working for the FBI. Dom and Fenix were eventually have a go at each other, even if Fenix kept hiding behind his gun. Brian got his licks in on Agent Stasiak. (Who comes up with these names?) Overall, while there weren’t many fights they were fun to watch in an “oh that’s got to hurt” sort of way.

Overall, this was a movie that was desperately trying to revive a dying franchise and relying heavily on the cinematic beats of the first movie and thus nostalgia to make it work. Nothing new was really added and Brian and Dom were left in the same positions as before with the hopeful note that Brian and Mia were back together and Brian was now again a trusted ‘friend.’ To compensate, they amped up effects and racing stunts. Overall, I’m giving this one 3 gingersnaps.

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