Fast & Furious (PG-13) *½

 

A bit of a train wreck, but isn't that why we're here?

Fast & Furious
In this film publicity still released by Universal Pictures, Vin Diesel is shown in a scene from "Fast & Furious."
 

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

The stars are back in the fourth installment of this fast-cars/hot-chicks series, which tells you a little something about the rocky roads their careers have traveled since 2001's original film. You can, in fact, determine who has been most recently successful by who has the least screen time. In this case, less is more.

Thus Vin Diesel and Paul Walker carry the weight, reprising their roles as Dom, a criminal with a taste for speed (Diesel) and the only FBI agent (Walker) who can keep up with him. The film opens as Dom and his gang -- including his lady Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) -- attempt the heist of a gasoline truck in the Dominican Republic. Sadly, the plan's murky logistics don't include the simple science of what happens when you force a huge, speeding tanker out of control down a curvy mountain road, so success is somewhat limited.

Still, everybody gets out alive, but the authorities have taken notice, and the pensive Dom decides his notoriety is too risky for Letty and his friends. He takes off but ends up back in Los Angeles after a not-so-mysterious death. (In addition to driving like a stunt man, Dom can apparently reconstruct the past from mere skid marks, sort of like a useless and only marginally magical Harry Potter character.) Soon he's seeking revenge against a drug lord also being sought by Dom's FBI nemesis Brian O'Conner (Walker).

Naturally the frenemies team up, and back into the picture drifts Dom's sister (Jordana Brewster), Brian's old girlfriend. Bad-ass cars race in crowded streets. Scantily clad women slink around and make out with each other to a hip-hop beat. Characters advise each other to ''stay frosty,'' especially at ''game time,'' worry that ''I'm a walking target'' and opine on the topic of whether men should have a code. (They should, apparently, though it need not include adherence to traffic regulations.) Diesel gets the opportunity to dabble in strong emotion, and that experiment goes about as well as you would expect.

Fast & Furious -- apparently the articles were just too complicated this time around, though for sure this title beats the numerically challenged 2 Fast 2 Furious -- is a loud, dumb movie, but its male, car-obsessed audience will probably enjoy it anyway. Still, considering this film should be all about automotive porn, the cars get short shrift. There's really only one decent race, hindered by annoying GPS graphics, and director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) films not one but two setpieces in a tunnel, rendering the action confusing and repetitive. That decision is frustrating enough to make you drive the speed limit on your way home from the theater.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster.

Director: Justin Lin.

Screenwriters: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson.

Producers: Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell, Neil H. Moritz.

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 107 minutes. Intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language, drug references. Playing at area theaters.

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