For a child, there were perhaps few things that could more quickly pacify me than a Hal Needham flick: boisterous, juvenile, and punctuated with just enough fuel-injected frivolity, my brain could be numbed into a sense of bombastic bliss.
Cannonball Run, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit, (hell, even Stroker Ace had multiple screenings in my home when it reached pay cable) all had a sense of levity, camaraderie, and brotherhood that have helped these films have some sort of longevity. One wishes to just take Vin Diesel aside, show him some old Dom DeLuise footage and say, “Hey, lighten up, big fella! Just let out a hearty laugh like this guy!” Then give him a noogie on his massive bald head and hope that, perhaps just once, he could bring something more to this increasingly dull and repetitive franchise.
Diesel joins the original cast members as they return to the scene of their cinematic crime, which “streamlines” the series by dropping the articles out of the title to become just Fast and Furious. Ironically, the leads are now looking for career resuscitation from a series in which all of them eventually dropped out of to pursue personal box office glory. You can see for yourself how well that went.
I understand the appeal of car porn, even as I type this, Quentin Tarantino’s orgasm of octane, Death Proof, plays in the background.
The original was not without its guilty pleasures, in a sort of “Point Break with Pistons” kind of way, combining dripping machismo and dime-store philosophy. But it was only made bearable in the same way Roadhouse has come to be: late night, on cable, with friends, and perhaps while imbibing with a beverage of choice.
But in this fourth lap around the track, things are about as exciting watching someone else play Need for Speed on Xbox without ever lending you the controls.
The exciting hijack-action sequence that doubled as the film’s initial trailer? Turns out, it has actually little to do with the film, and is about 95 percent on returning cast member Michelle Rodriguez’ contribution to the project.
Unfortunately, Diesel, as refugee Dominic, hangs around for the films entirety. He returns to scowl and growl with Paul Walker (reprising his role as F.B.I. agent Brian O’Conner) as they team up to track down some heroin dealers who were also responsible for the death of Dominic’s ladylove.
As what appears to be a contractual obligation in films of this sort, the chase scenes go by with all the pacing of a strobe light. If you are interested, there are about three to four edits per second in each sequence, as I found that was the easiest way to get through them.
The script is strictly assembly-line material, with dialogue that barely rises above Diesel’s monosyllabic range. He and Walker continue to suppress any urge of joy while parading past shiny cars and shinier women. “Are you the kind of boy who likes cars more than women,” one of the vapid stiletto models proceeds to ask Dominic. “I appreciate a nice body, regardless,” he retorts. (Or something to that effect; it was really hard to distinguish his particular pattern of grunts and gurgles in this. But you get the idea).
I am sure there are a number of young boys who thrill to the possibility of yet another outing, as the ending so clearly suggests. But you would think in this fourth outing of the series, the filmmakers and the cast would have attempted to put a little more under the hood.