Start your engines, again, for the fourth sequel in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. This time around the track we get the original cast reprising their roles in a new story. I was an extreme skeptic about this film, but it actually does well with the cars and the action. The film begins with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) killed in a car accident during a supposed drug run. Dom (Vin Diesel) comes out of hiding in Panama and returns to Los Angeles to find the true cause of her death. Meanwhile, Brian (Paul Walker) is spearheading an FBI investigation to arrest a heroine dealer who uses race cars to move drugs across the U.S./Mexico border. Brian and Dom find themselves in a competition to win the race that will decide the driver to replace Letty in the drug run.

This is a very good action film. If all you want to is extreme car chases, explosions, and violence; then this is well worth the price of admission. Director Justin Lin does a great job cranking up a franchise on its fourth leg. He tunes down the CGI racing of the last film and brings back the bone crushing metal of street racing. Lin also ratchets up the body count. There are more gunfights and fisticuffs in this film than the first three combined. I can’t help but think Vin Diesel has seen his action numbers fade and wanted to come back with a hard-hitting film.

The biggest surprise this time around is that Paul Walker doesn’t suck. I thought he was terrible in the first two and expected a repeat performance here. He plays Brian as an older, darker character. He’s tough as nails and has one scene in particular that had our incredibly juvenile theater audience hooting with glee. It’s difficult to add any dimension to a poorly written character in general, so Walker gets some respect for not bringing back his past crappiness.

Fast and Furious is an unrepentantly misogynist film. The women are purely sex objects, scantily clad eye-candy and nothing else. Michelle Rodriguez is barely in the film and Jordana Brewster, who’s also back as Dom’s sister, may have been better if she hadn’t spoken at all. I doubt feminists are the target audience. I can’t imagine women, unless they’re car racing enthusiasts, would have any interest in seeing this film.

Fast & Furious is out April 2, 2009.

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