Originally, I planned to write my review for the fourth installment of The Fast and the Furious series, simply called Fast and Furious, by eliminating the word "the" from the entire review -- since that’s all the filmmakers did to give this dull ride a name. I realized, however, a review without the word "the" in it would not only be impossible to write, it would also make no sense. After watching Fast and Furious, I think that would actually be appropriate -- it's just not worth the effort.
I am a fan of classic cars. Automobiles that don't contain GPS systems, contraptions for your iPod, or a computer that runs everything. I'd much rather have an old-fashioned car with a huge engine, a tape deck, and black smoke flying out of the muffler. So, when I saw the fourth installment of this already dead franchise was trying to reboot with its “original parts” (parts that worked to perfection in 2001), I thought something good might hit the road. Unfortunately, like any car with original parts eight years after its purchase, things don't always work as well as they once did. While The Fast and the Furious may have been a Bentley flying out of the dealership, Fast and Furious is more like the rusted piece of crap someone left on the side of the highway after it broke down. Why did Fast and Furious look more like a car speeding down the road with no one behind the wheel? Well, here are a few reasons why Fast and Furious will just make you Furious, and Fast:
1. For those of you who have actually watched the previous three flicks, I hope you were paying attention, because Fast and Furious doesn't come with Cliffs Notes. Here's an example: during the opening sequence of the film, we are greeted with a big rig traveling down mountainous terrain, hauling five large gasoline tanks, which Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and three others, including Han Lue (Sung Kang), are trying to hijack (mostly while driving backward). All right, no big deal if this is the first of the four movies you're seeing, if you pay attention to the cars and hot women more than the actual storyline (not that there is one), or if your brain functions like that of someone in the middle of a five-day acid binge. But for those of you who actually pay attention to the movies you watch, you'd realize that Han died in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. So, how does he appear at the beginning of this flick? Is this a prequel to Tokyo Drift? Also, how about reminding us how Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), now an FBI agent, and Toretto know one another (maybe a few flashbacks?). It's just assumed that everyone seeing Fast and Furious will remember The Fast and the Furious, and that is assuming people still care eight years later.
2. We know that people watching Fast and Furious didn’t come for a deep, involved plot. We're in it for the cars. But a good story, for those who enjoy movies that make sense, kind of helps -- that’s what made the original a great success as an action film. According to Fast and Furious, here's the new way of getting drugs from Mexico to the United States: use four drivers you know nothing about, and put them in fast, colorful cars that would stand out in a Gay Pride parade. Really? That's the plan? We have a multi-million drug business, and four guys are being picked off the streets to run $60 million worth of heroin across the border? How about a helicopter or plane? I mean, if you're that rich, you must have some private airfield somewhere? Nope, this is a movie about fast cars, so we need to load the drugs in cars so CGI special effects can suck the fun and realism out of everything. It’s almost as dumb as making an entire movie about drifting. Oh wait, they did that ... in Tokyo. I know part of what made this franchise moderately successful, or even watchable, is the fact that the cars are cool and they do incredible and unrealistic things with them -- at high rates of speed. For those most part, however, the driving sequences of Fast and Furious are lame and cartoonish. It completely kills the action, of which there is very little in the first place.
3. Vin Diesel as Dom may have worked gloriously the first time, but this time it was more like watching the Hulk with a driver's license. Not only does he look twice the size he did eight years ago, he seems twice as pissed, his voice twice as deep and incoherent, and his talent as an actor twice as terrible. I know this is not the sweetest of characters, and he doesn't exactly have a heart of gold -- except when it has to do with his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), or Letty -- but this guy was the reason the original worked. He carried the movie. Now, he's a main reason this movie fails. He seems to have a heart, even a sense of humor, for the first few minutes of the film, then Letty is killed by a member of a multi-million dollar drug cartel and the character is a ruined man. Who wants to watch that? I understand the concept of revenge, but in this case his character becomes depressing, and the movie becomes ridiculously boring, even when the cars are speeding around (which, as I mentioned, isn't all that much fun to watch in this flick). After the opening sequence this turns from a high-octane action flick into a movie about revenge. It doesn't matter what O'Conner, the feds, or anyone else is there for, it only matters that Dom is there and he gets his revenge. Unfortunately, most of the movie he just runs around like the Hulk, to the point where you can almost imagine him saying, "Dom smash. Dom drive car through wall. Dom drink Corona while trying to look like a man in front of Colombian drug lord I want to kill. Dom mad!" How bad is this movie? There is one point Dom get gets shot in the back -- and barely flinches. He's gushing blood, yet he's walking around like he may have just been stung by a mosquito.
4. Fast and Furious may have all of its original parts, but the driver is totally different. In 2001, Rob Cohen was behind the wheel. Yes, he got this vehicle when it was fresh out of the dealership, but he drove it well. He knew this car inside and out. In 2003, when 2 Fast 2 Furious came out, John Singleton was behind the wheel. He got to know the car, got rid of a few pieces (Diesel, Brewster, Rodriguez), but gave the car some flare -- not a lot, but at least made it worth going along for the ride. In 2006, Justin Lin took the wheel for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. He completely gutted the car in an attempt to make it bigger and better, without sitting down and actually getting to know what he was driving. He gave it some unneeded flash and took away all of the horsepower. He basically got it ready for a car show, with all of the hot women in short skirts surrounding it, but it was never ready for the road. In 2009, Lin decided his gutting of the car was a bad idea. He reinstalled the old parts, but crashed and burned because over the years he’d left them sitting out in the rain. He never took proper care of them. Just because you have the original parts, it doesn't mean the car is going to run the same forever.
Unfortunately, this Fast and Furious ride is not over yet. There's still a lot more road to go, and unfortunately, the guy driving is drunk, he's smoking clove cigarettes, has uncontrollable gas, listens to really bad Latin house music, and is constantly talking on his cell phone -- presumably drunk-dialing his ex-girlfriend and trying to convince her that even though they broke up five months ago, after he cheated, that one night of good sex will make up for his bad behavior. It's a nightmare. It's just like having the makers of Fast and Furious create two discs worth of special features. I mean, they don't have enough material to warrant that kind of attention, right?
When you look at the menu on the main disc of Fast and Furious, you will see a special features section that contains two features -- feature commentary with director Justin Lin and a gag reel (yes, a gag reel). The commentary, of course, allows you to rewatch Fast and Furious with Lin whispering sweet little nothings into your ear about what he was thinking as a director. Of course, my using the word thinking in the same sentence as Lin and Fast and Furious would imply thought went into the making of this movie, which, of course, is not true. The gag reel, which is really something that should appear in features for, well, funny movies, is several minutes of Walker, Diesel, and numerous other cast members laughing. They're probably laughing at the fact that you're watching this crap.
The second disc contains 12 special features -- yes, I did just write “12 special features.” I also threw up in my mouth, but you didn't need to know that, right? The features start off with "Los Bandoleros," which is a short film directed by Vin Diesel that was shot in Mexico. At first, I thought it was an actual documentary-type of thing -- it's gritty, it's raw, it actually looks interesting. Then, characters from Fast and Furious pop up and you discover it's actually events presumably leading up to the opening sequence of the movie. First of all, why do this? Second of all, why not include this in the movie, or make the entire movie like this? It's not flashy, there's no special effects, and it's actually interesting. Throwing this on the special features to rot is a bad idea, especially when it's better than anything that appears in the 107 minutes of Fast and Furious.
"Under the Hood -- Muscle Cars" discusses, you guessed it, muscle cars. When you hear Diesel talk about the cars he drives in the movie, you wonder where all that automotive love was in the movie. If he, or any of the actors driving these cars, showed that much love an appreciation for the cars as they do in this feature, it would have been a huge step for Fast and Furious. "Under the Hood -- Imports" is even more frustrating because they show people actually driving these cars -- skills that are diminished in the film by the use of CGI -- and people actually talk about these cars with knowledge and awe. Where was all this in the film? Were they ever actually driving cars and not in front of green-screens, or did they make people drive around in these amazing cars for the sole purpose of making featurettes?
"Getting the Gang Back Together" talks about the original parts being loaded back into Fast and Furious. As Diesel says, "The reason why we did do this film is probably because people were never satisfied enough." First of all, people were satisfied enough after the first one. Secondly, Vin, if people weren't satisfied enough, why'd you wait eight years to get the gang back together? Oh, wait, it was "probably" because you all needed the money, or it was "probably" because you were not "satisfied" with the way your career was going. Give me a break. "Driving School with Vin Diesel" is exactly what it says it is -- Diesel learning how to drive, only with the stunt drivers. In the feature, they say that it's good to get the actors in the car because that way they'll feel better and look more comfortable when filming the movie. Well, maybe they should have taken more lessons, or, I don't know, driven an actual car and not part of a car in front of a green-screen while looking sort of constipated.
"Shooting the Big Rig Heist" starts with Neal H. Moritz, a producer on the film, talking about how the big oil tanker heist at the beginning of the film was his favorite scene in the movie and how it took weeks to film. Awesome! Then, one of the stunt coordinators says that the scene was a "handful" because there was so much going on while trying to make it look real. I'm sorry, but when does driving backwards down a mountain while trying to hijack five oil tankers seem real? Let me guess, this guy also believes Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are real, the economy is actually turning around, and the Holocaust never happened. "Races and Chases" opens with Lin talking about trying to up the ante with the action, doing things that have never been seen, each time a Fast and Furious movie is made. My advice: stop trying. Shut the car down, put it in neutral, and shove it off a cliff because this car is dead, baby. That feature leads into "High Octane Action: The Stunts," which Moritz starts off by saying, "People love this series." People love a lot of things, but it doesn't mean they want more of it. For instance, husbands love their wives (and vice versa), but do you think they want each other around all the time? Hell no. It's too much. We all need some space.
The last documentary-type feature is called "South of the Border: Filming in Mexico." I am sure it was thrilling. I mean, it would have to be, right? Almost as thrilling as watching a music video for the song "Blanco" performed by Pitbull and featuring Pharrell, which is the second to last feature. But, the best feature -- and I mean the best feature -- has been saved for last. It's a series of four trailers, but not for any upcoming movies featuring Diesel, Walker, Rodriguez, or Brewster. Yes, that's right, they’ve included the trailers for all four Fast and the Furious flicks. I wonder what it would have cost the makers of this DVD to have a man in a steel-toed boot go around to every imbecile buying this movie and kick him in the nuts. I mean, the movie is dumb, there is an extra disc purely for special features (the first disc contained so much information that they couldn't fit it all on one?), and the pain I've already gone through can't be that much worse than getting kicked in the crotch, right?