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“Fast and Furious”

Staff Writer

This film could have been reviewed after seeing the teaser trailer. Rarely does a film fall so effortlessly into expectation, and rarely does that mean anything good for the film and its franchise. You’ve already seen it if you liked any of the previous ‘Furious’ flicks, and you’ve done everything in your power to avoid it if you didn’t. The basic “The Fast and the Furious” formula of fast cars and dialogue remains intact, despite the slight and unnecessary “the” removal from the title. This doesn’t stop “Fast and Furious” from being the same entertaining vehicular action routine that’s proven enjoyable and profitable; but if you haven’t been a fan of the franchise, seeing Paul Walker and Vin Diesel reunite isn’t going to do it for you.

Like the three films that precede it, “Fast and Furious” is better suited for a highlight reel of special effects than a plot. Producer Neil Moritz has been with the series since the beginning, and the speed at which the film falls into the same recipe of narrative progression is a testament to his longevity. Mix high-octane car chase sequences with paltry attempts at acting, blend until substance is thin and filmy, spice with sexy women with more voracious sexual appetites than Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and bake with a thick special effects glaze until golden brown and unoriginal.

This time around, we are reintroduced to Dominic Toretto (Diesel) as he returns to the United States, despite having a police record worthy of a Grand Theft Auto game, from his six-year stay in the Dominican Republic. Why? The death of his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), of course.

Once Dom enters the United States, he is immediately marked as a target, and the same FBI agent who allowed him to circumvent the law in the first place, Brian O’Connor (Walker), is attached to a task force sent after him and the leader of vicious drug cartel. The story arches of the series have grown so bland that the biggest advertisement they could afford for “Fast and Furious” is that they are returning to their roots to begin ripping off themselves.

But despite its cinematic requirement to contain a story, “Fast and Furious” still manages to find enough excuses to load itself with the sufficient amount of adrenaline-mining car madness it has sustained itself on for years. Like an acid junkie in a trance club, it sucks down its fix with little shame, busting out a frenetic chase scene before even the credits.

Director Justin Lin injects so many scenes of explosions, sex and fancy cars going vroom-vroom that it’s impossible not to get a little thrill out of each and every one, even if you are still playing the “Brokeback Mountain” theme over any Diesel-Walker scene in your head. The action sequences are put on with such little regard for logic and dignity that it’s impossible to believe the development staff ever took themselves seriously, which is good, all things considered.

“Fast and Furious” paints within the lines so microscopically, it feels outdated by its eight-year-old prequel. The story is as irrelevant as you knew it would be, even for a film whose plot is as important as a reason for Angelina Jolie to be naked. For the one-time view, it’s still got the powerful testosterone hook, but the more time spent away from the theater is more time to realize just how much of it we’ve seen before. Not just in the better action movies, but in the series itself.

Though the specifics of the action scenes change, there is an inescapable feeling that “Fast and Furious” is just going through the motions, the joy of it having grown cold long before production ended. You’ve seen it if you like the series, but even that’s becoming a lame excuse.

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