Fast & Furious, not to be confused with The Fast and the Furious, is the fourth film in a franchise that hasn’t had the critical acclaim it hoped for, but has been more successful with fans, feels different than the previous two films. What was lost in 2 Fast 2 Furious & Tokyo Drift has been reignited in the fourth installment. That sense of family and normalcy returns to the streets as beloved characters are back behind the steering wheel. It’s comforting to see these characters with each other again in a film that’s planting seeds for a different tone that what the first three films set up.
Shifting gears within the storylines feels like the right move here, of course it’s not totally different, the street racing is still part of the DNA, but the focus is more centered around the heist/ criminal aspect that the first film establishes. Along with the sense of normalcy with the cast, director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan return. The result is better chemistry though Justin Lin didn’t direct the films that featured Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). With their return after taking 1-2 films off respectively, both characters and actors pick up where they left off.
Fast & Furious still has issues to be addressed, which follows a pattern the first three films all had – the script isn’t the strongest aspect with certain plot lines left out that aren’t fully explained. But again, like the previous films, you don’t see a movie like this for the academy level writing or directing – these movies are made to be a spectacle, for the pure enjoyment of coming together and having a blast watching Dom and Brian team back up. A sense of family is the best backbone of this franchise, hinted at in Tokyo Drift, continuing here.
The story takes place five years after the first one, picking up right where it left off with familiar faces alongside Dom – Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) now married, Mia (Jordana Brewster) & Han (Sung Kang). Once Han is shown, the questions about continuity instantly pop up. Where does Fast & Furious land in the timeline of events, clearly before Tokyo Drift since the last time we saw this character he was burning. It is a welcomed sight since Han was the best character to come out of that the previous film, but the world building is there. Creating a larger universe gives more weight to the word family.
Whats key to the success of this franchise is all about the characters, it’s been that way since the first film. Even more to that, the chemistry between the ensemble is equally as important. Being reintroduced to Dom and Letty, even though Letty doesn’t stick around for long, and Brian and Mia, even though Mia and Brian aren’t a couple anymore, their original stories are pushed further. More depth is added to these previously shallow characters emphasizing their relationships to one another.
The love Dom has for his sister and his wife radiates off the screen – Dom as a character is cold and distant but when his family is involved, he’s a completely different person, he’s warm and inviting. Even with a weak script Vin Diesel puts his heart and soul into this character which easily translates well when he’s on screen with other characters.
Just like with Tokyo Drift, the action sequences are at the highest quality. Justin Lin brings the adrenaline and intensity from the previous film and gets more out of it. Every high-speed chase is pulse pounding with explosive action and added stakes. This isn’t just a quarter mile anymore, Fast & Furious is expanding to other countries well beyond the streets of LA. The result is a closer look into how other cultures celebrate a sense of community through underground racing. It’s not as much on display here as the film plays out since there is a shift in tone, but the opening sequence still features the roots of what built this franchise.
Writer Chris Morgan still hasn’t fully nailed the script. Fast & Furious has a villain issue with easily predicable tropes typical in crime films. Though, this films villains in Arturo Braga (John Ortiz) and Fenix (Laz Alonso) are written better than any of the previous villains. They have purpose to the story, they’re not expendable characters used as a muse for the sake of being bad. Neither has any motivation behind their actions which follows the pattern of previous villains but they’re not useless – at least Fenix is less useless than Braga.
However, the better part of the villain trio is from Gisele (Gal Gadot). A feeble attempt at a love interest with Dom doesn’t land since his character is so identifiable with Letty, it feels like a betrayal to her memory. Of the villains, Gisele has the most potential and growth leaving her character open to possibly return in the future. Let’s face it, there’s no way the franchise would stop after that ending.
Fast & Furious is a turn of a leaf for the franchise. What didn’t work for the franchise is being rearranged and what did is given extra attention. It still isn’t up to the standard but it’s improving. The heart and souls of this franchise are back like they never left, making this film an enjoyable action film despite the continued issues that plague this franchise. But things are on the upside for sure.
Fast & Furious is written by Chris Morgan based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson, directed by Justin Lin is Rated PG-13 and has a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes. Fast & Furious was released on April 3, 2009 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes. Fast & Furious can be bought by online retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google. 3 out of 5.