The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was the best of the admittedly low-aiming car porn franchise for two reasons: One, the unexpectedly gorgeous Tokyo location photography, and two and more importantly, the fact that it adopted the Crank / Transporter 2 philosophy of dialing its hypermasculinity to ludicrous levels and embracing its own inherent kitsch value, tongue planted firmly in cheek. If you can't make a legitimately good action movie, which the first two Fast and the Furious flicks weren't, turning it into a testosterone-fueled comedy is the quickest and most reliable solution.
So imagine my disappointment to find the fourth installment, Fast & Furious, reverting the series back to its old folly. Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Conner return and team up to bust a drug lord who uses street racers to ship heroin from Mexico to the U.S. And don't get me wrong, the return of Vin Diesel's Toretto is welcome (Paul Walker somewhat less), but there are painstaking minutes-long sequences of what feels like the filmmakers making a straight-faced effort at a serious cop movie, complete with detectives discussing evidence around tables, sting operations, and halfhearted plot twists. You could remove the one drag race and occasional fetishistic car photography and you'd just have a crappy CSI episode.
It's a shame because Fast & Furious shares director Justin Lin with Tokyo Drift, where I thought the series had found its calling. The action scenes and chase sequences aren't particularly better or worse but it regresses from exotic nighttime Tokyo to eye-rollingly cliché Los Angeles settings and the dialogue isn't a tenth as absurd or funny. The moments of attempted character angst are Eragon-terrible. Also, while I normally avoid marching with the P.C. police, I can't help but point out the hilarious fact that every single black person in this movie is a drug dealer. All in all, a skippable action clunker.
Of course, everything I just said means jack shit in light of the fact that when the credits rolled, the cross section of American moviegoers I shared my theater with fucking burst into applause. So I guess I'm the jackass here. Put a bullet in my head, I'm done.
2 Stars out of 5