2009’s Fast & Furious reboot has the best opener of the series. It begins with a high-thrill action sequence, where Director Justin Lin flexes his action muscles. The crew have graduated from thieving TVs with built-in DVD players and are now stealing oil from a semi-truck. As American muscle cars pour over the desert roads of the Dominican Republic, treacherous roadways make this a heist to remember. There’s a good amount of jumping from cars and significantly, Michelle Rodriguez performs some of the only female-centered action in the series thus far.
After the warm open, Fast & Furious dissipates. It breaks down into what is, while important to the movies that follow it, wholly uninteresting taken on its own merits. It has a few good scenes, the way any of these movies do, but it feels splintered in many different directions. Somewhere along the way it was decided Fast & Furious would become a self-serious and plodding affair, unconcerned with how it’s using our time. It wrestles fitfully with deaths it doesn’t earn, taking out Rodriguez’s Letty, who is returned to the series through some convoluted post-credits sequence in the following film.
The fourth entry hangs its hat on the same principles we’ve received during the last three ventures. So why does it feel like a spectacular letdown? It is essentially a pilot episode setting up a long-running TV series but not a very successful one. It has lent the road for a greater expansion to come, but it’s a muddled process getting there, with bored actors who have done this all before and a bored audience that has seen it all.
Fast & Furious is a necessary bad movie. It brings Paul Walker and Vin Diesel back together—as God intended it—for the first time since the original outing. It is the first in the new line of getting the crew back together films and yet does not feel at all like a celebration with Tyrese Gibson of 2 Fast 2 Furious notably absent. Perhaps it was meant as a reclamation of the franchise.
The feeling is that the plot is once again an excuse for action, a concept that feels more likely for a videogame than a feature length film. Once the dreariness sets in, there’s nothing remarkably fast or furious about the proceedings here. This is a reboot of missed potential with one fun scene providing only an opportunity for growth from this point.