The fourth installment of the franchise saw most of the original players back in action. Although Tokyo Drift was not considered to be a huge success there was enough there for Justin Lin to get the green light for another go. The timing was right right to get Vin Diesel on board.
After the first film he departed alongside director Rob Cohen to make the xXx film. His career, although not on the slide, was not taking him in the direction hoped for and a return as Dominic Toretto was an excellent way to raise his profile once more. With Vin on board, the movie suddenly seemed more attractive the Paul Walker and the others.
Set five years after the original film, Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are hiding out from the law in The Dominican Republic. After a high-profile robbery of a petrol tanker Dom leaves Letty in order to protect her from the ever close authorities. Later he learns of Letty’s murder in Los Angeles prompting a return to the town to find her killer. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is now back working with the FBI and he is on the trail of an organisation that is running drugs from Mexico. Letty was involved in this and O’Conner and Dom must put their differences aside in order to get to the mysterious boss behind the drug runners.
Justin Lin sets his stall out early in this film with the spectacular opening sequence. Dom, Letty and Han (Sung Kang) are part of the crew that is hijacking a petrol tanker that consists of four trailers. It is something to behold. This opening signals what Lin’s vision of the future of the Franchise is. Less car races and chases and more over the top physics defying stunts.
With this new approach and the fact that this film comes eight years after the first part of the story is, in a way, a reboot of the series. The main characters are introduced a series of short but exposition heavy scenes. For people new to the series, this is a benefit but for others it is just going over old ground and its sits uncomfortably alongside the main thrust of the story. Looking at it again with hindsight, you can see it was a necessary exercise. Re-establishing the characters motivations was essential for the continuing story that flows directly from this film to the seventh in the series.
What the film lacks in story is made up for in the action set pieces. In line with the broadening of the appeal of the films there are a number of elements introduced. For example, there is a foot chase sequence involving O’Connor trying to apprehend a fugitive which is beautifully choreographed and very well shot and edited to elicit the utmost tension.
As with all of the films there is a strong theme of family ties running through the film. Jordana Brewster, as Mia gets a larger role in this than she had been before when she was mainly Brian’s love interest. She is the stabilising influence on the two male leads and acts as their moral compass. It marks the beginning of the family expanding to include others including Han and Gisele (Gal Gabot). More on this in the next film.
Overall, a bit of a change of direction for the series with the action sequences expanding, becoming more ambitious and the core group of actors increasing. Recommended.