Lin’s Fast & Furious drives plot into the ground

It is probably best not to enter an existential crisis when watching the “true sequel” to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. One could ponder the internal motivations for the actors involved or the various reasons that it may have been made, but this is all completely moot: Fast & Furious was engineered to make money, which it gleefully did in its opening weekend to the tune of $71 million. The pundits who believed that the public’s appetite for fast cars and Vin Diesel had been satiated by the original were sadly mistaken.

It would be much better to simply allow the movie to unfold as the fast-cars-and-fast-women fantasy as the first one did, only it seemed that Justin Lin, the director of Tokyo Drift (the third Fast and the Furious movie, if you are keeping track) and the excellent high school drama Better Luck Tomorrow, had other plans on his mind. Much of Fast & Furious seems more inspired by The Bourne Identity rather than the original film.

This is not a terrible thing. Featured in the theatrical advertising was a Bourne-like chase sequence between Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and a tattooed criminal which was a minor miracle, succeeding in doing something that I had never believed possible in this or any lifetime: It turned Walker into a credible action hero.

Unfortunately, this action hero lasts only for the briefest of moments, and it is quickly shattered as soon as Walker opens his mouth to speak.

The flat delivery of Walker’s dialogue again reminds us all that Walker is the Keanu Reeves of his generation, who even at his best is never believable. This comparison is easy to make. Just look at the original The Fast and the Furious, which is itself a complete rip-off of Point Break. This calls for an important question: Is Diesel the Patrick Swayze of his generation?

Sadly, the answer to this is no. For what promises to be such an aggressive film, there is a veritable gold mine of sadness and despair. Dominic Toretto (Diesel) starts off with that familiar authority, but is quickly worn down by a tragedy that I shall omit for those who hold the F&F canon in high regard.

One can imagine the hilarious depths to which Swayze would have milked this dialogue. Diesel has no such instinct, preferring to remain stoic through monosyllabic utterances.

Of course, none of this should matter as long as the action sequences are good, and they are: The opening sequence where Toretto and the gang hold up a gasoline truck while it is still in motion, the inevitable street race through downtown LA traffic and the chases through an underground tunnel underneath the Mexico/U.S. border. All of this is good and nearly great. Unfortunately, there is way too much plot getting in the way, and not nearly enough action.

In a movie series propelled by car porn, there is remarkably little. The short sequences of modified cars and modified women in short skirts are hardly integrated into the whole of the movie at all.

If the main characters aren’t enjoying this stuff, how is the audience supposed to? Rather than being fun, Fast & Furious seems more intent on being relentless in pouring on the drama about family, friendship and loyalties. John Woo can do this stuff, but Fast & Furious can’t.