Fast & Furious, the fourth film in the ludicrous car-racing franchise, opens with an undeniably exciting sequence that reintroduces Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) from the 2001 original. Along with a handful of associates, Dom and Letty execute a complex maneuver that involves stealing gas tankers being hauled by a semi-truck, while driving at high speeds along a twisty mountain road. Director Lin, who was also responsible for 2006’s third installment, stages the action with a maximum of suspense and a real sense of danger, even though you can be pretty sure that everyone will make it out okay.
An image of a sudden dip in the road perfectly encapsulates the trajectory of the rest of the movie. Despite the much-hyped reunion of all four major stars of the original, Rodriguez disappears after about 10 minutes, as Dom heads back to Los Angeles to reunite with his sister Mia (Brewster) and find himself once again at odds with cop Brian O’Connor (Walker). Reinstated after breaking all sorts of laws in the first two movies, Brian is chasing a heroin dealer who conveniently uses street racers as couriers—and who is also conveniently the target of Dom’s rage, after being responsible for the death of someone close to Dom.
Lots of rather repetitive, lackluster car chases ensue, none coming close to the ingenuity of that opening. In between, we’re subjected to Diesel and Walker’s attempts at emoting, which are just as disastrous as the various car wrecks they cause. Brewster comes back only to be wasted entirely; at least Rodriguez gets something to do before being shuffled offscreen. The story, such as it is, lacks a worthy villain, so the only conflict to get worked up over is whether Dom and Brian will resume their homoerotic friendship (spoiler: They do).
Fans who are only looking for automotive porn may enjoy themselves, but the relentless dude pandering eventually loses its charm (even the shameless girl-on-girl making out only gets you so far). By the time the ill-advised ending rolls around, you’ll be more than ready to race home.