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You can drive like a demon
And be like the he-men
Who populate movies with muscles and stunts.
You can live on life’s edges
And leap off of ledges
And live for the thrill, even if only once.

After such escapades,
When adrenaline fades,
The life that remains will be yours in the end.
When you have to face
What is after the race,
I hope you’ll be left with at least one real friend.
______________________

MPA rating:  PG-13

After yet another series of delays, let’s return now to the Fast and Furious marathon, specifically the one with the worst name. Seriously, they couldn’t have added a 4 to indicate where this movie fell in the timeline? Just Fast & Furious, same as the first movie, but it must be so fast that it outran the Thes in the original’s title. Anyway, I was eager to get through this fourth film. It marked both the franchise’s lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes but also a shift from small-scale street racing culture toward international espionage and action that I can only assume will get more pronounced in the following films.

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The very first heist sequence sort of proves there’s a difference, as Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his hijacking crew attempt to steal an oil shipment from a moving truck, a chase reminiscent of Mad Max that culminates in the franchise’s first truly logic-defying effects-laden stunt. After Dom is forced to leave behind his accomplice/sweetheart Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez), the news that she has been killed brings him back to the U.S. in search of revenge, even as his old frenemy-turned-FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) works in parallel to track down the drug lord behind Lettie’s murder.

I’m not really sure what to say about these movies anymore. The cars are fast, the characters are occasionally furious, and the whole thing is low- brow but entertaining. While the plot tries for a couple twists, it’s largely predictable as Dom and Brian end up on the same team over time; when one scene has them racing through tunnels past a bunch of explosives, it was such an obvious Chekhov’s gun that I knew they’d revisit it. (I was not disappointed.)

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Yet there are flashes of improvement as well. For one thing, this is the first sequel to bring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker back together and actually feel like a sequel rather than a spin-off. Plus, I was not familiar with Gal Gadot before her breakout role in Wonder Woman, but I guess she had already “broken out” off my radar in this franchise, being introduced here as Gisele, who works for a drug dealer but is sympathetic to Dom. Unfortunately, the film’s final moments are much like the first film’s, ending on a weird note of good guys breaking the law which I guess is a cliffhanger but doesn’t promise much for the next film. Regardless, Fast & Furious is decent but unremarkable. At least the franchise should only get better from here.

Best line: (Dom) “I’m a boy who appreciates a good body, regardless of the make.”

Rank:  Honorable Mention

© 2020 S.G. Liput
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