Writer: Chris Morgan
Dominic Toretto: Vin Diesel
Brian O’Connor: Paul Walker
Mia Toretto: Jordana Brewster
Letty: Michelle Rodriguez
Campos: John Ortiz
Fenix: Laz Alonso
Han: Sung Kang
This is, in every way, a very confused plot, full of wildly improbable elements, ridiculous situations, and time warps. Some things–fast cars, slinky women, close ups of undulating female hips and characters with as much variety and life as cardboard cutouts–haven’t changed from the first three installments. In most franchises, there is at least an attempt at temporal continuity and at furthering continuing plot elements. This movie is unburdened by such trivial matters.
The movie begins in, of all places, the Dominican Republic, where our hero, Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, is hijacking segments of a truck hauling four (or five; what does it matter?) gas tanks–while it’s driving, completely alone, on a remote highway with no other traffic. This requires a variety of fast cars, liquid nitrogen and a hammer. Don’t ask. Suffice it to say that a sane person would merely steal the truck while it is standing still somewhere, but then there wouldn’t be wildly unnecessary driving that destroys the truck, many other vehicles, and nearly gets everyone killed. And a gas tanker with no plates or brake lights being pulled by some idiotically batched together towing vehicle certainly wouldn’t attract any attention.
We quickly switch locations to Panama where Toretto, who is hiding out from the law and who has sent his loyal minions off on their own, discovers that Letty–Michelle Rodriguez–has been murdered in LA, so he’s on his way back there, even though it will put him in danger of going back to prison. Oh yes, Han–Sung Kang–must also go his own way, and observes that some interesting things are going down in Tokyo and he may just drop in over there. Unfortunately, Han died in Tokyo three years earlier in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
In the meantime, Brian O’Connor–the late Paul Walker–disgraced former LA Cop who let Toretto go several movies back–thereby committing a variety of felonies–has now been hired by the FBI! Why not? The FBI routinely hires people who couldn’t hack it in a local police agency and who help felons escape, don’t they? O’Connor isn’t a good fit with the FBI either–he just has too much gasoline flowing through his veins and pickling his brain–therefore what is he assigned to do? Catch a drug kingpin who is using–I’m sure you can’t guess this one–ridiculous flashy and loud street racers to carry his drugs and money. Catching drug kingpins is pretty much the business of the DEA, but hey, the FBI hired a confused box of thug helper like O’Connor, so why not?
This puts Toretto and O’Connor on another collision course as both need to be hired by the drug kingpin, Braga, who is really Campos, played by John Ortiz, who initially pretends to be an underling of Braga. Toretto and O’Connor meet at a race set up by Campos/Braga to choose his next hot rodder, so in order to keep things quiet, they engage in a long, noisy, destructive and bizarre race on city streets. Just the kind of low profile drug kingpins like to keep.
Oh yes, I forgot one scene. Toretto visits the scene of Letty’s murder–she was a courier for Braga–and has a sort of psychic flashback wherein he eventually learns that Braga’s evil underling–Fenix–killed Letty. That’s why he wants to get close to Braga.
From there, it’s lots of racing, wild driving, and ridiculously minimal dialogue. O’Connor, for instance, has a conversation with his former lover Mia–Toretto’s sister–who asks him why he let Toretto go. After a long pause, O’Conner replies: “I dunno.” That’s pretty much the philosophical depth of the script of this movie.
As usual, the driving sequences are generally well set up and filmed, and this time, there are no real Star Trek-like warp drive sequences, but they are replaced by several wheelies done by Toretto’s car.
The final driving sequence involves Toretto and O’Connor trying to flee Mexico with Braga as a captive, pursued by a variety of evil Braga henchpersons and of course, Fenix. The setting is a mine that runs under a mountain, apparently on the southern border of the US, and this mine is remarkably long and straight with a smooth as silk floor, wide enough for two or more vehicles to drive side by side. O’Connor almost gets killed by Fenix, but Toretto kills him first–with a car, of course.
Toretto is captured, and sentenced to five million consecutive life terms without parole. The final scene of the movie shows a grimacing Toretto riding the corrections bus to prison, when suddenly, here comes O’Connor–obviously renouncing his FBI persona– Mia, and a couple of Hispanic idiots, all driving fast cars and swerving around the bus. Toretto smirks, and we know he’s about to be sprung. And why not? Corrections busses have no guards with guns, nor do they have radio contact with the police. Do they?
The movie does maintain some consistent plot elements from the first three movies. There is no character development of which anyone is aware. Every character is static, though Mia’s bosom seems to have grown since her first appearance in the franchise, which, I suppose, constitutes a sort of growth. There are virtually no police officers in this movie, not even to ineffectively try to chase Toretto or O’Connor and crash many cars, or if there were, they didn’t so much as register in my memory.
Acting? Uh…I suppose there was some, but it mostly consisted of juvenile angry outbursts, grimaces, and brief, muttered responses to other brief, muttered responses. The Director, Justin Lin, could easily have done this one on cruise control, and the actors could have done most, if not all, of the scenes by memorizing dialogue in the two or three minutes before each scene was shot, probably in a single take.
As in the first three movies, any of the actors asking the director for their motivation would have probably heard nothing more than “drive fast! Crash! Grimace! Mumble!”
Even so, the movie is a serviceable little you-killed-my-girl-so-I-have-to-kill-you vehicle for Diesel, and Walker has pretty much got the “my character has no idea who he is or wants to be, but he likes driving real fast in colorful and expensive cars a loser like my character couldn’t possibly afford” act down.
But that doesn’t matter. On a production budget of $85 million, the movie has made more than $363 million worldwide. The producers obviously know their audience. Amazingly, this fourth installment pulled in the most cash of the first four, and by a considerable margin.
Escapist fiction for the young, male, confused and hyperactive who can’t be bothered to read has found a vehicle in this franchise. Two more reviews to come–when I’ve recovered sufficient functioning brain cells damaged by watching this movie.