Fast & Furious

A small army of foley artists, sound mixers and editors, and digital effects compositors try their best to inject some life into Fast & Furious, the latest entry in the auto-minded urban action franchise, but they only succeed in upping the decibel level of this grating, clamorous mess. Any thrill of even just ample, colorful entertainment of the entirely expected variety is blunted by a wildly inane script, which makes the comparative functionality of previous entry Tokyo Drift look like high art.

Taking place between the events of 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift, the movie opens with its one undeniably thrilling sequence, in which entrepreneurial automotive freelancer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and girlfriend Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) lead the hijacking of a gasoline tanker in the Dominican Republic. After this, the pair split, with Dominic not wanting the heat he's feeling from the police to bring down those around him. Meanwhile, former undercover cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) now works directly for the FBI, in Los Angeles. When personal tragedy befalls Dominic, both he and Brian have a reason to take down Arturo Braga (John Ortiz), a Mexican drug kingpin ferrying shipments across the border via an underground tunnel. Naturally, this involves lots of turbo-charged racing and other dangerous activities, which in turn worries Dominic's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), whom Brian used to date.

Director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow, Annapolis) returns for his second series stint behind the camera, and uses an aggressive sound mix to sell the action scenes. But as with Tokyo Drift, has some trouble delineating the spatial relationships so crucial to any understanding and emotional investment in the racing sequences. Of course, the parameters of Chris Morgan's screenplay afford him no favors, setting two hugely important races underground, in cramped and dimly lit fashion. Lin saddles another race, an outdoor affair, with gaudy, incongruous overlays of a navigational map — a gambit that comes across as ripped off from a videogame. The major failing is the film's poor plotting and ridiculous dialogue, however. For the full original review, from Screen International, click here. (Universal, PG-13, 107 minutes)


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