Fast & Furious [DVD]

By Clint Morris

They say you should continue to pour the same blend of synthetic goo into the oil compartment of your car. If you don’t, your transport may still run for a while – but you’re engine’s going to take a beating, and before you know it your vehicle’s blown a gasket.

“2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” didn’t exactly blow gaskets (well, maybe the first sequel did- someone definitely forgot to service that thing before reversing it out of the garage) but with the film series’ original magical ingredient Vin Diesel nowhere to be seen in either (not counting his very brief cameo in the latter), both vehicles definitely ran rough – in dire need of a some good lube.

Canon-armed Vin Diesel returns to the franchise that made him a marquee name, alongside original sidekick Paul Walker, for the insipidly titled “Fast and Furious” – and yes, you’ll notice it’s a much smoother ride from the moment director Justin Lin (“Tokyo Drift”) lifts the park brake.

It’s been five years since car-loving FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), then working undercover as a speed racer to thwart a hijacking ring, let the gang’s Teddy Bear-esque boss, Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel), drive off into the sunset, ultimately helping him skirt jail time. In the years between, (If you saw “2 Fast 2 Furious” you’ll know what O’Conner’s been up to, so no explanation needed there) Torreto and feisty girlfriend ‘Letty’ (Michelle Rodriguez) have been somewhere in the Dominican Republic using their driving-skills to jack precious loads from trucks. Our film opens with the reckless duo about to free a truck of its cargo – but running into a spot of trouble (it’s a marvellous sequence – the budget of most action films seems to have been spent on just that ten minute sequence!).

After that close call, Torreto decides he’s in need of a change. Seems he does have a fair of death after all. Letty doesn’t quite feel the same way – she’s still happy to swing from cars and hang off trucks if it means adding weight to her purse. He splits, she stays.

Meanwhile, O’Conner, recently reinstated by the FBI (he was in trouble for letting Torreto go in the first film), is trying to catch the mysterious head of a big-time drug cartel, that are craftily moving snow from Los Angeles to Mexico managing to evading the authorities each and every time. Naturally, the smugglers are using the best drivers in town (those with illegally-modified engines under the good) and that’s ultimately O’Conner’s ticket into the gang. And, of course, Dominic turns up wanting a place on the driving team too – he’s there for revenge, not coin.

Meanwhile, O’Conner tries to win back Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dominic’s sister, who’s still very hurt by the fed’s betrayal first time around.

Rob Cohen’s original 2001 flick wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination – in fact, it was merely a riff on Kathryn Bigelow’s bank robbing-surfers flick “Point Break”, substituting boards for hot cars – but it was fun. Its appeal lay mainly with the fabulous car stunts, but also the chemistry of stars Walker and Diesel – especially effective as the brooding bad-boy with a heart of gold (or is it grease?).

Both the car stunts and the chemistry returns for this fourth (or second, if, like everyone involved, you’re trying to forget the last two sequels) installment in the franchise. It really is non-stop fun from 0 to 200. There’s enough mind-blowing car-flips and crashes to make up for the terribly cheesy dialogue (every line seems to be trailer-ready) and an entertaining little storyline to go along with (it’s actually been well thought out). You can pick away at it, and tot up numerous plot holes, but it’s not the film for it. Something like this should remain critic proof.

If you’ve seen the last sequel, “Tokyo Drift”, which Diesel appears in towards the end, you’ll know that everything turns out Okay for everyone here. Why? Because that flick – for some unknown reason – is set before this one. We know that because a supporting character from the previous film, killed in “Tokyo Drift”, pops up again here – before mentioning he’s off to Tokyo. Still, there are enough surprises (just the fact that Vin Diesel returned to the franchise is a surprise in itself, hey!?), skid marks and shouting matches to keep even the harder-to-impress moviebuff happy.

One of the first great sequels for 2009, “Fast & Furious” will no doubt run the laps around the competition.

Extras

The 2-Disc edition includes commentary by director Justin Lin, which is quite entertaining; a short film directed by Vin Diesel called “Los Bandoleros”, which explains what Dom’s been up to before the film starts; and several featurettes. Quite a good package, actually.