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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Apr 3, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

FAST & FURIOUS By John Grafman When The Fast and the Furious ran rampant in 2001 it was trend-setting and thrilling. Looking rearward, the original helped to ignite the sports compact market and create a generation of die-hard import fans. The franchise in no uncertain terms made believers of the emerging market. Hondas and Subarus no longer took a back seat to Fords and Chevys. The newest in the series tries to not just recapture that spark, but continue the saga from the first episode in this picture, which is the fourth for those who are counting. This is entertaining to be sure, but corny and sappy at every turn. Only the slightest hint of reality is evident, and it makes this latest venture over the top. The director Justin Lin knows what this market likes. This is a little like a Rocky movie. Sure we know Balboa shouldn't even have a chance, but hey, what fun would that be.

If even the title seems familiar, don't be shocked when you see many familiar faces in this action feature. Resurrected are cast members Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner, and the women in their lives, Michelle Rodriguez reprising her role as Letty, and Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto. In short, Dom, who has been running from the law for eight years and up to no good in South America, returns to Los Angeles. Back in the City of Angels, he reunites with his sister Mia. His love, Letty, was willing to do anything to clear the path for Dom's return, but things never go as planned. Dom, along with O'Conner (who works for the FBI), pair up to take on a common foe. And of course, this is all just another good reason for Brian to turn the heat up on his relationship with Mia, Dom's sister, which he has kept on the back burner. Now forget all of that plot stuff. The real story is all the four-wheeled fun. A huge variety of dazzling cars fill in for any gaps in credibility in the script. The effects departments do make the impossible happen in many of the sequences, and it's all good. Setting the tone in the movie, the very first sequence sets the hook deep in our mouths with high speed thrills that look death defying. It is hard to keep the momentum of that first scene going throughout, but the director does an admirable job keeping the audience eyes glued to the screen. Many a car were used and gave its life for this, including seven Dodge Chargers. Don't shed any tears for the loss of sheet metal, as those were recreations from fiberglass. The people involved with the Fast & Furious would be the last people to see good cars meet an untimely death. We know that no animals were harmed in filming this, according to the Humane Society. However, I can't speak for certain on the cars. But the Dukes of Hazard this isn't.

If anything, this reminds me of another hard driving movie: Convoy, as actress Jordana Brewster does bare a resemblance to Ali MacGraw in her role in that 70s favorite. Her performance as Dom's sister shows both a soft side and a toughness that's as natural as her beauty. She has the same on-screen magic that MacGraw had. Jordana has been building her resume with a number of other projects. She's certainly worth keeping an eye on in this, not to mention the one to watch in the future. Michelle Rodriguez is able to play with the boys, and if the first scene isn't convincing then nothing is. Her fancy footwork while dancing on top of moving cars and trucks are in a large part due to her amazing stunt double Heidi Moneymaker (yes, that's her name). However, in the heat of the moment, no one gives it a second thought that she's just inches from a painful and frankly messy death. Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day offered up a similar sexy toughness that Michelle offers, although Ms. Rodriguez is a little less hard-edged than Ms. Hamilton. Vin again plays his trademark roll in a manner not unlike Stallone. I'm not sure if the role demands that, or if that's simply his range of ability. Either way, audiences eat it up. The outlaw is both able to turn a wrench with the best of them. He's also able to change himself into someone that knows right from wrong. He is the perfect antihero and you want to cheer the character's exploits even when you know it's so wrong. Ah, the true mark of a teen rebel movie. Paul Walker's youthfulness is yielding, albeit slightly, to a more suitable character, as he now seems more age appropriate for being an agent in law enforcement. But, he has his own conflicts within. Is he a good guy that likes to be bad, or is he a bad guy trying to be good? Paul is looking a little less pretty, yet he still maintains devilishly good looks that help draw the girls to the theater - in turn keeping the movie houses from looking like a sausage factory. This picture has something for everyone.

That doesn't stop with the actors. The cars really capture the whole spectrum of sports cars. The 1970 Dodge Charger is a favorite and a legacy from the first Fast and Furious outing. This baby is loaded with a 426 Hemi, fuel injection, and a BDS supercharger. That might be the star but, the supporting cast isn't bad either. Enthusiasts will no doubt identify the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle in primer, 1972 Ford Gran Torino with a 429, 1973 Chevrolet F-Bomb Camaro hauling ass with 1,550 horsepower a la Nelson Racing Engines' 406 Chevy small block, and a 1987 Buick Grand National GNX. But the fun doesn't stop there. Import fan favorites include a 1998 Nissan Skyline GTR, a 2009 Subaru WRX STI, 2000 Acura NSX, a 2007 Porsche Cayman, and a few hundred other cars that would look right at home at a SEMA show. In the end, this does recapture the spirit of the first movie. But something isn't the same. Since the first movie and the ones that followed, the landscape of cars and our perception of those imports have changed. We already have accepted the sport compacts. As such, those cars are accepted into our lives as much as the air we breathe. So, the element of tension as to what's best, import or muscle, seems to be a moot point. It looks like the movie makers missed a perfect chance to get on the green bandwagon and explore new territory. Could we not have seen an electric car or perhaps a natural gas powered something? Well, don't feel too sorry for them. I can guarantee the producers will be seeing plenty of green at the box office anyway.

Fast & Furious (PG-13) Dominic Toretto: Vin Diesel Brian O'Conner: Paul Walker Mia: Jordana Brewster Letty: Michelle Rodriguez Campos: John Ortiz Fenix: Laz Alonso Gisele: Gal Gadot Directed by: Justin Lin Written by: Chris Morgan Based on Characters Created by: Gary Scott Thompson Produced by: Neal H. Moritz Executive Producers: Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent Director of Photography: Amir Mokri

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