Friday, April 10, 2009

AB Goes To The Movies - Fast And Furious (4).

[Editor's Note: Alone on the road for bid'ness + No kids + No wife + Excessive free time = I'm goin' to the movies! Woooooohoooo!]

Über-action movies are a mixed bag. Sure, you get lots of car chases, shootouts, explosions, bloody violence, and the like. But you also have to endure a gang of unnecessary "dialogue", contrived plot machinations, and the occasional "love story" in the process. Sometimes I wish such movies could be magically scrubbed of all talking and condensed into a solid 20 minutes of what I actually paid for. Less talk, more action. Fast And Furious (4) is such a movie.

The F&F franchise was born in 2001, which is perhaps coincidentally the same year that star Vin Diesel's career died. Subsequent editions like 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift didn't do nearly as well at the box office, so in a last ditch attempt to revive the series, the lazily monikered Fast And Furious (seriously, is that a creative title or what? The "4" is unofficial.) reunites the original cast with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriquez, and Jordanna Brewster.

Their slogan is "New Model. Original Parts". I say "Just Shut Up And Drive, Already."

Trying to objectively critique a movie like F&F4 is like trying to debate Sean Hannity. It's an exercise in futility. The plot, assuming that's what you wanna call it, is culled together from every action movie cliché you've ever been subjected to between the actual action itself. Boyfriend and Girlfriend are partners in crime. Girlfriend is offed by cabal of shady bad guys. Boyfriend bows revenge. Boyfriend easily infiltrates cabal of shady bad guys. Boyfriend befriends sexy bad girl (but doesn't smash out of respect for deceased Girlfriend). Boyfriend begrudginly works with Feds to take down cabal of shady bad guys. Boyfriend escapes into the sunset, aided by Feds. Rinse and repeat.

Let me be very clear: this is not by any means a bad movie. In fact, the action scenes are so over-the-top, it's destined to make my "buy it on eBay for my non-existent home theater" list the moment the DVD hits stores. It's that good. But the "that good" is all of 15 minutes. The other 90 minutes of running time are the issue here.

How bad is the dialogue? Here's a sampling.

"I like a woman who's 20% angel, 80% devil."

"Are you a good guy acting bad, or a bad guy acting good?"

"I thought we signed on to do the right thing."

"How do you say goodbye to your brother?" ... "You don't."

"You hurt Run, you hurt Run bad. Now everything's f*cked up."[1]

Seriously, the color-by-numbers script made my head hurt. Why they didn't just hire a couple of 12-year-olds to write this drivel and save the money for more explosions is beyond me. About 5 minutes in, I started playing "guess the next line" and I ended up batting .500 for the whole movie. The speaking parts of this movie should be made into a 2nd flick called F*ck Effort. It's not even a half-assed attempt, it's more like a quarter-assed try.

And then there's the acting itself. Watching Vin Diesel and Paul Walker try to out-thespian each other is like watching two kindergartners play Wii Tennis. Sure, one of them will eventually win, but that doesn't make either of them any good. Jordanna Brewster's deft-defying cleavage is more impressive than anything that comes of her mouth. BET alum Laz Alonzo, with his faux-hawk hairpiece and awful accent, has to be the least intimidating bad guy this side of "evar". Note to Hollywood: Lightskinnded dudes don't scare nobody! Next time call Ving Rhames. I hear he's free.

The rest of the cast is a relentless cavalcade of curvy women of undetermined ethnicity kissing, stereotypical Latino villains, and still more curvy women of undetermined ethnicity kissing. I was counting the moments before Bokeem Woodbine drove by in an 89' Celica. And lo and behold, around the 1:12 mark, there he was, gap tooth and all.[2] Can't-Get-Right FTW!

So why am I still gonna give this movie a "go see it now!" rating, despite all this tomfoolery? Easy: The chase scenes are on a "hole notha' lebul"! Watching these dudes race through subterranean tunnels, crowded LA streets, and winding Dominican highways is worth the admission alone. Would I prefer more chasing and less "acting"? You betcha. I'd also like fat-free bacon cheeseburgers, 70 degree year-round weather, and an NBA assistant coaching gig. But that's fantasy. So is expecting 90 minutes of wall-to-wall action in a Hollywood movie. Never happened. Never will.

Reality is, you get a solid 15 minutes of jaw-dropping, CGI-enhanced, vehicular hi-jinx spread amongst two hours of mind-numbing Vin Dieseling. And in this case, reality ain't so bad.

Final Verdict: Neither Walker nor Diesel could deliver a line if he worked for SBC. But when paired with fast cars and amazing CGI effects, they can carry a movie, and pull $10 out of your pocket in the process. Ignore my pointless over analysis and enoy this equally pointless escape from reality. 3 Stars (Out Of 5)

Question: Have you seen Fast And Furious? What did you think?

Fast And Furious (4) [Official Movie Website]

[1] Okay, not from F&F4, but criminally bad nonetheless. Name the real movie, win Cyber CapriSuns™.

[2] Not really, but he woulda stood head and shoulders above the rest of this cast.

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