With the molded-rubber face of Savalas, the basso profundo of Stallone, and the name of an underdog gas alternative, Vin Diesels already-dubious ripped-tough-guy star has dimmed enough to warrant a return to the car-chase series that made himand money. In the latest, notably slack Fast & Furious (number four), incidental beatdowns are often more exciting than the flaunting of reinforced-steel nerves during cruddily shot speed-racing.
Diesel reprises the role of larcenist/muscle-car-
The highlight remains the advertisement: The movie opens with the broad-daylight fuel-tanker hijacking from the no-introduction-needed trailer, but never recovers the hand-rubbing glee of that modular stunt. For a better sense of the movies other road sequences, note that the press-kit blurb for Diesel, a WoW and D&D maven, climaxes with his video-game production shingle. Pointing out Xbox aesthetics has become as familiar a move as bemoaning the continuing disappearance of the frame in mainstream cinema, but sequences in Fast & Furious are as up-front about imminent adaptation to video game as some directors used to be about accounting for future TV broadcast.
The blindered, vectored-wall look of a tunnel dash to Mexico is straight-up first-person consolean unreal nowhere-space in a genre reliant on door-rattling thrillswhile the Campos-sponsored recruitment race in Koreatown features constant GPS street mapping and a disembodied female voice giving updates with tranquilized urgency. Beer-ad nightclub ambience around a couple of race scenes, replete with ladies makin out, might as well be cut-and-pasted from Grand Theft Auto. And the homogenized complexion, hair, and features of Jordana Brewster, as Doms sister and hideout confidante, might as well be computer-generated. (Not that the stunts necessarily need the Tarantino Death Proof treatment: The feverish rainstorm pursuit in We Own the Night was famously software-augmented.)
All of which subverts the early praise for the series as journeyman genre work. Director Justin Lin, who also chaperoned the last installment, here probes the significant thrills of outrunning or outwitting a flying burning chassis (though a preview audience seemed just as excited by the reappearance of reggaeton stars Tego Calderón and Don Omar in subtitled bit parts). Unlike in Tokyo Drift, Lin doesnt dig into his locations enough (though, hurray, Bendix sign!), and seems to be at that awkward stage where he believes that what a Vin Diesel actioner needs is more lugubrious dialogue. Doms regretful flirtation with Camposs assistant (he likes a lady whos 20 percent angel, 80 percent devil, down-to-earth . . .) and other interludes are DOA, and once OConner has actually broken the nose of his jerkwad FBI co-worker, scenes at the Union Stationsize department are likewise deadweight.
A movie whose second spoken line of dialogue is, candidly, Lets make some money at least ends with a satisfyingly ludicrous desert pile-on, with (wholly unnecessary) provisions for a sequel. But whether you blame the Part Four blues, the Dom-OConner stalemate, or Diesels distraction by the prospect of starring in and making a video game of Carthaginian general Hannibal, Fast & Furious reconfirms that car-chase moviesgood, bad, or mediocreall assume the future employment of the quaint old fast-forward button.
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