Removing the “the” from its predecessors’ title not once but twice, Fast & Furious‘s abbreviated moniker harkens back to the series’s 2001 original while simultaneously expressing a tough curtness that marks it as its own model. Re-teaming that first film’s headliners Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, this fourth installment clearly means no-nonsense business, which is a shame considering that only the inanely dubbed 2 Fast 2 Furious knew how to wholeheartedly wallow in the goofiness of its over-the-top hot bods and hot rods. Helmed by Tokyo Drift‘s Justin Lin, this not-summer-worthy saga doles out sleek rides, chest-puffing muscleheads, scantily clad female asses, and two separate shots of three lesbians playing tongue-hockey, franchise elements that Lin treats mostly like tiresome obligations.
Whereas John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious had fun indulging in incessant auto-erotica, there’s little sexiness here, due in part to the self-serious tone typifying the story, which concerns street racing thief Dom Toretto (Diesel) and undercover F.B.I. agent Brian O’Conner (Walker) working together to take down a Mexican drug lord (John Ortiz, again pursued by undercover agents a la Miami Vice) who murdered Dom’s beloved Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). It’s a revenge tale that frequently takes pit stops from its action to portray Dom’s grief, which in this case amounts to watching a darkness-shrouded Diesel stare blankly off into the distance to the tune of sad electronic muzak. Diesel is akin to a less-than-incredible hulk, epitomized by his taking a bullet in the shoulder and responding by simply turning around angrily, and his macho bravado does much to weigh down any flickers of momentum.
Almost as responsible for Fast & Furious‘s inertia, however, are a series of vrooming set pieces that barely make an impression—from a cartoonish opening involving a fiery, flipping gas tanker, to two separate races through a mountain tunnel connecting the U.S. and Mexico—and a script that presents clichés with such scant creativity or enthusiasm that it comes off like an outline. Jordana Brewster also perfunctorily participates in this reunion as Brian’s spurned love interest, flashing the same ultra-white veneers found in Rodriguez’s mouth, which gets to utter the only credible line in this stalled sequel when she exclaims, during the intro heist, “Let’s make some money!”