Directed by Justin Lin
March 12, 2009 (Universal CityWalk) / April 3, 2009 (United States)
Reinstated FBI agent Brian O’Conner and Dominic Toretto are forced to work together to avenge the murder of Letty Ortiz at the hands of drug lord Arturo Braga after she went undercover.
This is the Fast & Furious film that sucked me into the FF movies (which in turn forced me to rewatch the previous three). It has a lot of story and solid action. We have danger around every corner and a villain that will stop at nothing and heroes that overcome great odds to win. There is cool action with flashy equipment. And it is just a very fun ride.
Much like the first film you could take the car action out of this movie and have a good film with plenty of story. In my opinion we get some real characters here. They are not two-dimensional caricatures that are interchangeable but distinct individuals. From minor to major you can recall who is who when you think back. Stasiak (Shea Whigham) is a favorite of mine. You can tell just how much he dislikes O’Conner and see that O’Conner views him as a bit of a joke.
The scenes especially work between Toretto (Vin Diesel) and O’Connor (Paul Walker). It is well known they were friends in real life and that translates well to the screen. Diesel came off as haunted by the death of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) with O’Connor appearing just as troubled.
I do not think you could have had a film with as much street racing as the first. It would have been more of the same and audiences have come back like they did. There is only so much you can do with fast cars. Street racing was certainly the end for our two main characters, but it was not the focus of the movie. Instead the focus was the story. This was your generic stopping the drug kingpin story with a street racing contest to pick a driver just like in the second film but it was done better here.
I do question how the character of O’Connor got his job back. I could buy into an “all is forgiven mentality” from the government after he helped bring down Carter Verone in 2 Fast 2 Furious but I have trouble buying into them sticking him back into the FBI given that he had left Toretto go in the first film and was a fugitive by the second. I especially have trouble with the idea that they allowed Toretto’s girlfriend to be involved in this case and allowed O’Connor to remain on the case with her involvement. I admit real world logic does not always apply in movies, but these issues give me pause.
And at the end of 2 Fast 2 Furious Brian O’Conner and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) lifted some cold hard cash from Verone. Unless they were able to fudge the books that Verone most likely kept (and criminals do keep them because they like to know how much money they’re making) then I’m willing to bet the forensic accountants that would be going over the books would learn that money was missing and it would be a short trip to figure out that O’Connor and Pearce had stolen money. The feds do not look kindly on that.
O’Connors interactions with Dominic’s sister I have emotion with them. There is some chemistry between Mia and O’Connor. They began to build the second great romance of the series.
Jordana Brewster returns as Dominic’s sister Mia. They managed to re-capture the spark from the first one and make it a little stronger here. Gal Gadot makes her debut as Gisele Yashar who is a liaison for the film’s villain Braga (John Ortiz).
Sung Kang was my favorite return. I just loved him as Han in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and I am still upset that they killed him off in that (and again in Furious 6). Sung Kang has great screen charisma and I just cannot figure out why he has not done better. He should be a bigger name than what he is. It says something about him that he was able to endear an important secondary character in the third and a minor character in the fourth film to fans of this series so much that they started calling for him to come back.
The villain twist at the end has been used in plenty of films. I am not knocking them for doing it here. I am praising them for doing it well. Why do I say well? As is often the case it is not obvious from the start. It is usually a curveball sent out of left field. The thing is it does not always work. More often it is a halfhearted attempt by the writers and producers to create a shocking moment, but it usually fails to shock. Here I was actually surprised. And in hindsight it did make sense with maybe a little head canon pulled from the available information. The character came off as dark enough and devious enough and intelligent enough that you could believe he had actually done it. Ortiz plays excellent villains.
Fast & Furious certainly headed in a direction that was completely unintended by the minds behind the first film, but it was organic. You can see a logical progression even if you think that progression is a little bit out there. It was a wise move. You cannot keep giving people the same thing and expect them to keep coming back. This film was much more of a crime film than the first one and it allowed the series grow and evolve and satisfy many old fans as well as bringing new fans in. Yet the basics were still at its core.
Fast & Furious is an exciting addition to the FF series and signaled the beginning of a new direction for the films. Watch it!