By 2009 and after a string of flops as long as your arm, Vin Diesel finally returned to the movie that made his name in an attempt to shake the series up in something of a soft reboot. Roping in fellow F&F stars Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster along for the ride, he vowed that this would be considered the TRUE sequel to the original despite snagging the director and the character of Han from Tokyo Drift to maintain some sort of continuity. It also made the timeline more confusing than an X-Men movie and – by removing the “The” from the title – made explaining the order of these movies to a novice hideously annoying.
We catch up with slap-head, speed guru Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) shacked up with a new gang, that includes girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez sporting some impressive veneers) and Tokyo Drift’s Han, who spend their time jacking gasoline trucks on the road in the Dominican Republic, however Dom breaks up the gang and nobly leaves Letty to avoid her getting caught when he finds out the law is getting close. Meanwhile Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is back with the FBI and is chasing down LA gangbangers in order to get close to a crime boss known only as Braga, but when Letty’s death brings a vengeful Dom back to the States both men find themselves chasing the kingpin from different directions. And so the former frenemies alternate between thwarting each other and bonding as they get tied into a drug smuggling scheme that involves an underground smuggling tunnel to Mexico and – of course – a fair bit of racing.
Despite the original boast of the movie featuring “original parts” by bringing back the lion’s share of characters from the original 3 movies (although Letty and Han are technically cameos) the fourth go around for the Fast And Furious franchise is somewhat of a damp squib with the main plot acting as a half-arsed whodunit as Dom deduces the clues to Letty’s killer by simply threatening to kill virtually everyone he meets (more Bad Boys than Sherlock Holmes when it comes to detective work; but whatever gets the job done, am I right?), whereas O’Connor is equally brutal but takes time out from breaking the noses of his workmates to re-woo old flame and Dom’s sister Mia (who STILL doesn’t have much to do). It all amounts to a very basic, very standard action/thriller plot which, despite some good back and forth between Diesel and Walker, is drab and nonsensical and kinda boring. However we do get a very early, pre-Wonder Woman role for Gal Gadot sporting an accent so thick it’s virtually unintelligible
The film shakes itself out of it’s self-imposed coma for a couple of rousing action scenes (returning director Justin Lin gearing up for the huge part 5) one if which is the enjoyable ridiculously complicated and risky hijacking of a tanker truck that is the initial signs of the series’ growing disinterest in physics and the second is a mid-film race through busy traffic by a bunch of drivers auditioning for Braga which may be the best pure car chase the franchise has ever produced. Unfortunately it’s all undone by obvious twists, lazy plotting and possibly the WORST set piece that the series has to offer involving a high speed underground tunnel chase that is confusing, hard to see and is vaguely insulting to the viewer. It’s not like the franchise hasn’t used CGI before but why on earth would the car chase that closes out your car chase movie involve barely any real car chasing? Why am I watching a car chassis surrounded by computer generated tunnel while computer generated dust obscures everything when I paid to see the cars actually moving?
Not an awful film by any standards but very bland for the most part and not the sort of fireworks you’d expect for the return of Diesel and Walker to take their franchise back.
Stalled at the starting line.