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Original parts can't restore Fast and Furious franchise

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Published: Sun, April 5, 2009 @ 8:14 p.m.



Fast and Furious movie poster

The Fast and the Furious 4

When a crime brings them back to L.A., fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto reignites his feud with agent Brian O'Conner. But, as they are forced to confront a shared enemy, Dom and Brian must give in to an uncertain new trust if they hope to outmaneuver him. And, from convoy heists to precision tunnel crawls across international lines, two men will find the best way to get revenge: Push the limits of what's possible behind the wheel.

Showtimes and more on The Fast and the Furious 4

I'm car person. I spend about one-third of every year covered in brake cleaner (and not like the movie would suggest, grease.)

That being said, I can't say "Fast and Furious" is a good movie.

The fourth installment of "Fast and Furious" is appealing to only a few groups of people, presuming they don't get turned off by gratuitous profanity, : Gearheads and girls who want to stare at Vin Diesel and/or Paul Walker and suckers for cheesy action movies.

"Fast and Furious" starts five years after the first movie and sometime before "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift." My first qualm with "Fast and Furious," other than the missing number to indicate which installment I'm talking about it, is the disruption in continuity that's created by setting this movie before "Tokyo Drift." According chronology given in the series, "Tokyo Drift" was set in the present when it came out in 2006, yet "Fast and Furious" features a 2009 Subaru WRX STi -- which, according to their timeline, is a car from several years in the future.

The opening chase of "Fast and Furious" is an exciting watch, albeit, heavy and CGI and at least one portion lifted straight from Quentin Tarantino's "Deathproof." As the film progresses, it starts to dip too much into the video game world and away from the great car chases gearheads come to expect from autofilms.

While the three times a car drives under a falling object/object rolling down the street, one of the few things not digitally created is the over-sexuality of the film. "Fast and Furious" manages to show more skin than "2 Fast 2 Furious," which was set in Miami and includes way more girl-on-girl kissing.

In this film, Paul Walker returns troublemaking FBI agent Brian O'Conner. Vin Diesel and his arms come back as Dominic Toretto and Michelle Rodriquez and her arms come back as his girlfriend Letty. Dominic carries his grudge all the way into this film, even though Brian saved him from jail.

Brian, the cop who can't get fired, follows Dom while he seeks revenge. Walker may play one of the least sexy cops in movie history: He has pretty blue eyes, but hangs around Dom like a sophomore looking for a prom date. One of the most lovable characters of "The Fast and the Furious," ADD-afflicted Jesse, was killed off in the first flick, so unfortunately the film couldn't be based on the most believable characters. Jesse could've saved this movie.

Also unfortunately, Justin Lin got the honor of being the only director of two movies in the series. Lin has proclaimed that he's not that into cars and his films can attest to that. "Tokyo Drift" and "Fast and Furious" both end up being one part video game, one part car movie and one part softcore porn, leaving most interested groups disappointed.

The film strays from its generally tuner roots to include some good American cars, including a Chevrolet Chevelle SS, a Ford Gran Torino and a Buick Grand National GNX. Dom's Dodge Charger also defies being totaled a few times to make a comeback.

There's also a real, military-edition Hummer that's a welcome sight after the rise to popularity of its plastic-bodied version that crawl the streets today.

One of the biggest disappoints about "Fast and Furious" is a weak soundtrack. Eight years ago, when the first "The Fast and The Furious" was released, the soundtrack included Ja Rule, Caddillac Tah, Faith Evans, Limp Bizkit, Nate Dogg, Petey Pablo, Fat Joe, Scarface, Ashanti, DMX and Redman, many of whom collaborated on several songs. Eight years ago, that was an intense line-up of hot hip-hop artists.

This time around, there's M.I.A., Busta Rhymes, Lil Jon, Pharrell and Robin Thicke. It's not nearly the lineup or musicality of the original movie and none of the songs will illicit radio time the way "Rollin'" did.

"Fast and Furious" does get more creative in its product placement than in years past, adding in aftermarket part companies in signs on the skyline and other unique placements.

For the automotive enthusiasts who head to the theater, though, they'll notice a few painfully obvious errors. The least of which is referring to a car's direct injection while the carburetors are in clear view. Another unbearable faux pas is showing a dummy version of the Subaru little to clearly and there's no drive-train or exhaust.

"Fast and Furious" doesn't live up to the standards of great movie chases. It's no "Smokey and the Bandit," "Gone in 60 Seconds" (original or remake) or "Bullitt." Then again, neither Walker nor Diesel are Steve McQueen.

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