- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

“The Fast and the Furious” has spawned a third sequel, the first to star the original cast. This one is called “Fast and Furious.”

The reason for dropping the “the” is unclear.

Those familiar with the formula pursued in the first three films will find little new here: lots of drag races featuring supercharged imports; several preposterous, highly entertaining hijackings and pointless romantic subplots that add little to the story.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been on the run ever since undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) allowed him to escape capture at the end of the first film. Along with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dominic has teamed up with a group of skilled drivers skilled in ripping off oil tankers — while they’re being transported by big rigs.

That opening action sequence is a doozy, arguably worth the price of admission all by itself. Though obviously computer-generated in places, the stunt’s neat to watch.

“Neat to watch” summarizes the film quite nicely, actually. The revenge subplot that drives “Fast and Furious” — Letty is murdered and Dom must find out the who and why — is thoroughly uninteresting because we haven’t seen these characters in almost eight years, and the 10-minute action sequence that opens the film and stars the pair isn’t enough to draw us back into their life. The series has moved on, and the audience moved on with it.

Ditto the relationship between Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s sister. When the two try to reignite their relationship from the first film — on a kitchen counter in full view of Dom — it elicits giggles from the audience. It’s hard to blame them: Would you make out with Vin Diesel’s sister if there was any chance whatsoever he’d catch you in the act?

(Which reminds me: Where does Vin Diesel buy his clothes? Where do you get shirts that fit his absurdly inflated biceps and deltoids? Are the sleeves custom-crafted? It’s not as if you can pick up that sort of shirt at Brooks Brothers.)

Those emotional subplots are entirely secondary to the action, which comes frequently and with great aplomb. Brian and Dom team up to take down a drug smuggler named Braga who is hiring street racers to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border. Brian wants to interdict the flow of drugs; Dom wants revenge for Letty’s death at the hands of Braga’s henchmen.

The performances are middling, at best. Mr. Diesel is better suited for roles in which he talks slightly less, while Mr. Walker’s face is firmly fixed in a gaze of vague frustration. Unfortunately, Miss Rodriguez, the best performer of the lot, gets minimal screen time.

★★

TITLE: “Fast and Furious”

RATING: PG-13 (For intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references)

CREDITS: Directed by Justin Lin, written by Chris Morgan

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

WEB SITE: http://www.fastandfuriousmovie.net/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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