When a crime brings them back to the mean streets of Los Angeles, fugitive ex-convict Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) reignite their high-octane feud. However, when a common enemy rears his head, Dom and Brian must learn how to work together and trust one another in order to defeat him.
Although The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was an extreme breath of fresh air for the franchise, Justin Lin’s fourth installment in the franchise simply titled Fast & Furious is the first one so far that made me smile and get excited like a little kid looking around inside a candy store.
It takes the elements that made the previous few entries so fun and cranks them up to an eleven here. Some people may not enjoy the more family drama elements to the series but, if handled right, I actually really enjoy that side of the series and this film handles it remarkably well.
Something that the first three entries in the franchise did that I thought was a little bit weird was how each film seemed to focus on just one character. Sure, it makes it so you really get a good understanding of who the lead protagonist is, but the other characters feel pointless which was majorly disappointing. Why even have these A-list actors in your film if not to further explore them?
Gratefully, screenwriter Chris Morgan took some of the characters that we have grown to love throughout the series, namely Brian O’Conner and Dominic Toretto. I know it may sound like a weird comparison to make here, but the way the characters were handled here sort of reminded me of the structure of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V.
In that game, there are three protagonists you can play as throughout the course of the story – Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. Fast & Furious will frequently show some scenes with Brian O’Conner front and center and then it will transition over to Dominic Toretto.
Instead of feeling weird and jarring, I found these subtle character transitions to be exactly that – subtle and also quite effective too. One character addition that I was hoping screenwriter Chris Morgan would explore but sadly didn’t is Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar. She gets a little bit of a backstory here but not enough to make me care for her quite yet. In this film, she just feels pushed to the sidelines which was disappointing to see.
Now, like I’ve said in my previous reviews for the first three films in this franchise, there are obviously going to be a lot of people that only watch these movies to see the racing sequences which is totally fine and very understandable. And if you’re one of those people, then you’re in luck because 2009’s Fast & Furious contains the best racing/action scenes in the franchise up to this point.
At times, it almost felt like I was watching a straight-up action flick and that isn’t a complaint either. Director Justin Lin really understood exactly how to inject some excitement into this franchise and his talent and dedication shine through in almost every scene here. There’s really no such thing as a perfect Fast & Furious movie, but this entry most certainly stands out as more than a goofy racing movie. It’s genuinely exciting and fresh.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language, and drug references
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Chris Morgan
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: April 3, 2009
Running Time: 107 minutes