Fast & Furious, apart from having a stupid title, messes with the chronology of the Fast and the Furious movies. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t name it “Fast and the Furious 4,” as that would be too misleading. You’ll notice in this film’s opening scene, in which a group of people you might recognize from the first film in the franchise attempt to rob a truck with four loads of oil, that Han (Sung Kang) is alive and kicking. Those of you who saw Tokyo Drift know that this can’t be possible, and here’s where the messiness comes in.
As we eventually learn, Fast & Furious actually takes place before Tokyo Drift. Han has yet to go to Tokyo, and therefore can’t be killed. I’m guessing that any future films will also take place before Tokyo Drift, although there are some interesting implications that come from that. For instance, one of our main characters simply cannot die, which might take away some of the thrill for audience members who notice this. However, considering the type of intelligence that these movies aim for, it might not be exactly fair to be thinking about their continuity with this much brain power.
So, the basic plot that’s being ripped off from another movie this time around involves a man looking for revenge. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has been killed, and Dom (Vin Diesel), has decided that the man who killed her needs to be taken out. An eye for an eye, and all that jazz. Plus, he loved her, and that’s good enough reason to kill someone, so the film wants us to believe. He’s a wanted man, though, so he’ll have to make sure not to make his presence known to the cops.
Of course, Paul Walker returns as well, reprising his role of Brian O’Conner. He’s back working with the police, or maybe it’s the FBI. He’s to infiltrate a drug dealer’s gang for the same reasons as he did in 2 Fast 2 Furious. As you’d expect, his and Dom’s paths overlap, and the two find themselves teaming up — reluctantly, at first — in order to accomplish their goals. Other characters include Dom’s sister and Brian’s former girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Braga, the drug lord (John Ortiz), and Gisele (Gal Gadot), Braga’s liaison who may or may not fall in love with Dom.
Newcomers to the series won’t have trouble fitting in, and that just tells you how insignificant the last three movies have been. They’ve been brainless action movies, and they haven’t been wholly unenjoyable, but in terms of a series, this has to be one of the weakest team efforts in regards to plot and characters. You can jump right into any of them and be up to speed within minutes. In some respects, I think that’s a nice thing, but in others, it’s not particularly rewarding to loyal fans.
If you are new, here’s how these films usually work: People race cars for money, people, other cars, revenge, pride, or fun. This film is different in that it’s more of a generic action movie. Cars aren’t the only things that get to be in action scenes, as guns join the mix in a couple of shootouts. This one actually felt the most generic in terms of its action just because of this, although I think at this point in the series, guns are a welcome addition.
The car chases and races are fun this time around, as they have been each time except for 2 Fast 2 Furious. The aforementioned character who can’t be killed did lessen some of the tension, but once you get involved, you tend to forget minor details like that. When cars are being driven at this high of a speed, crashes seem inevitable and expected, so every bump and turn makes you even more tense. It’s exhilarating, really, and if there’s one thing that I have grown to like about these movies, it’s that feeling.
There’s an attempt, this time around, at making Dom a deeper character. I think that same attempt was given to us in the first film, with mixed results. It was more effective here, although if the filmmakers were hoping to make you care about him or make him sympathetic, they’ve failed. He’s still just Dom, a person who steals from people for a living. But he cared about his girlfriend so revenge is completely justified, right?
Vin Diesel shows up and reminds us why The Fast and the Furious made him a star. He’s not exactly charismatic or deep, but he makes for an intimidating presence and is likable enough. He’s leaps and bounds better than Walker, who is emotionless throughout. The rest of the actors blend into the background. If I were to compare this film to any of the past three films, it fits right at home as a sequel to the first one. That makes sense considering it’s the first true sequel to that movie.
Fast & Furious is the third film chronologically, and the fourth installment released in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Is it particularly good? Not any more than the first film, but it feels like a return to form — if you can call it that. It’s like the first film in terms of pretty much everything but fine elements of the plot, and that it uses guns far more frequently. It tries for a bit of character depth, the chases are as thrilling as they’ve ever been, and I ended up enjoying myself a fair bit. Fans of the series will want to give it a watch.