"How long have we been doing this?” sighs Michelle Rodriguez at the start of Fast & Furious, a question audiences may be asking themselves as burly baldie Vin Diesel reunites with bland blondie Paul Walker for a fourth helping of gas-guzzling auto-porn.
In truth, it’s been eight years since Diesel’s ex-con Dom first went up against Walker’s dogged cop Brian in The Fast And The Furious. Paul returned for 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, while Vin popped up at the end of 2006’s otherwise negligible The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
But F&F marks their joint comeback to the franchise that made their names, with Jordana Brewster and Rodriguez also returning to the fold as their respective love interests Mia and Letty.
That is the chief point of interest in Justin Lin’s film, which otherwise presents a carbon-copy of its predecessors’ slightly camp blend of taciturn machismo, sneering villainy and tyre-squealing, clutch-crunching mayhem.
Since the leads always played second fiddle to their four-wheeled co-stars, it feels odd to place such stock in them being back in the driving seat. It’s also something of a swizz, one of the original quartet making such a hasty exit in the first act it temporarily puts the entire movie in neutral.
This messy departure provides a convenient catalyst for what follows, Dominic and Brian reluctantly teaming up to bring down a shady drug lord using street racers to smuggle his heroin across the US-Mexican border.
In order to land a spot on his crew, Walker and Diesel compete in a free-for-all road race across LA that, an opening raid on a fuel-laden road train notwithstanding, gives the flick its most satisfying set-piece.
Alas, the car-nage that ensues is confined to a maze of underground tunnels, too dark and claustrophobic a setting to appreciate stunt scenes already made hard to follow by the epileptic editing.
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Slick action, hot hardware, shame about the screenplay… Still, it’s the best since the original TFATF, and fans of Diesel’s gravel-voiced swagger will get a kick seeing him reprise the role that put him on the map.