Fast & Furious

Yes, it’s the third sequel to a picture that was pretty much junk and that was also a remake of a picture that was almost entirely junk. It’s about fast cars, hot babes in tight shorts and street toughs with more attitude than a 12-pack of old gangster movies.

Its plot exists at the single-cell level of storytelling evolution and is really just a peg on which to hang some spectacular automobile stunts. The acting is competent “” nothing to write home about, but not risible, either. It’s “Fast & Furious,” and the whole enterprise can best be summed up by saying, “Vroom, vroom.”

Vin Diesel stars for the first time since 2001’s first film in the series as Dominic Toretto, who, with his gal, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, TV’s “Lost”), hijacks gasoline trucks in the Dominican Republic. Well, it’s different.

When the cops get too interested in Dom for past crimes, he leaves Letty with a pile of cash. What she does then draws him back to the U.S. and into an uneasy partnership with FBI agent O’Conner (Paul Walker, “Flags of Our Fathers”). The pair then go after a Los Angeles drug king named Braga (Robert Miano, “Edison”) by becoming drivers for his minion, Campos (John Ortiz, “American Gangster”). Causing friction between the two buddy/enemies is Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”).

Guns blare, fists flash, cars roar, traffic signals are ignored. Campos’ moll, Giselle (newcomer Gal Gadot), almost bursts a blood vessel in her attempt to vamp Dom, finally asking him if he’s one of those guys who prefer cars to girls. He gives her a politician’s answer “” which is no answer at all “” and I’ll skip the “auto eroticism” joke. I probably used it already in a review of one of the earlier flicks in the series, anyway.

As they grow to trust each other and his relationship with Dom develops, O’Connor gets into more and more trouble with his fellow feds. While you might expect them to be a pack of jerks, such is not the case. Only one of them is an ass, and he’s not even the boss. Perhaps this is the foundation of the plot for another sequel.

Like the third film, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” this one is directed by Justin Lin. His breakout American film was “Better Luck Tomorrow” in 2002. Reviewers expected him to try to become the next Ang Lee, but now he’s more on his way to becoming the next Brett Ratner. Let’s just hope he becomes a good one.

There’s nothing wrong with action movies if the action and spectacle are well-staged and edited in such a way we can tell what’s going on. The stunt that begins this picture is a success on both levels. It’s goofy, but it’s smart-goofy.

Diesel is fine playing his stock brooding character and I’ve never understood why Walker is so disliked. I find him convincing in this role. Let it go at that.

This series never saw a traffic law it didn’t think was for wussies, and that’s fine in an urban fantasy setting. This is one movie that lives up to its title.

“”Doug Bentin


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