You are no doubt aware of the established recipe for the F&F movies: muscle-bound thugs in muscle cars; an ear-shredding hip-hop soundtrack; improbably scantily clad beautiful babes hanging off the cars / drivers / each other - usually while gyrating to said hip-hop; and of course numerous plot-driven Car-Fu, Petrol-Porn race & chase sequences. Fast & Furious has all of these elements in abundance. What the franchise boldly chooses to eschew are any modicum of taste, subtlety, self-awareness, irony, or subtext.
Surprising as it may be that 2001’s THE Fast & THE Furious has managed to sustain a third sequel, even the staunchest supporter of the franchise would be surprised to hear that the bulk of the original’s cast have returned, almost a decade later. Word is that perhaps their star trajectories weren’t quite as stellar as some might have hoped, but this film benefits greatly from having the older (wiser?) and slightly jaded personalities back on screen. Vin Diesel carries the film on his vast frame, occasionally lapsing into Riddick-ulous superhumanity; Paul Walker demolishes his “pretty boy” image with a few moments of adept brutality; and Michelle Rodriguez & Jordana Brewster are back for the ride to provide the boys’ moral compasses and motivations.
There is indeed a plot hidden in here somewhere, but we all know it’s merely a frame on which to hang the numerous car chases. The film opens with a gear-crunching bank heist on wheels, and your tinnitus will only have just subsided by the time for the next of several set pieces. Naturally, these are the film’s strongest moments and most likely what people will be paying to see. Gimmicky satnavs and CGI augmentation occasionally blur the line between cinema and Xbox, but the relentless pace won’t allow for much over-thinking from the audience.
Ultimately, the Fast & Furious franchise is less rooted in reality than most console games or other summer blockbusters. It is a hyper coloured, neon dayglo fantastical world that has been bespoke tailored to please Max Power readers and ADD suffering teenage boys. That being said, this film is slick, very well polished and as good as one could hope. If you enjoyed any of the other 3 F&F movies then this is likely to be an improvement. It is quite rare for a fourth film of any franchise to eclipse the original, but I think Fast & Furious, while clearly flawed, could be one of the few to do so.
EXTRAS *½ A commentary with director Lin; a gag reel; a featurette called South fo the Border: Filming in mexico; and a featurette called Driving School With Vin Diesel. All in all, a pretty piss-poor effort when you see the copious extras that appear on the Blu-ray edition.