Category Archives: Action

Man on Fire (2004) Review

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: R16 – Violence & content that may disturb
Denzel Washington as John W. Creasy
Dakota Fanning as Guadalupe “Lupita” (Pita) Ramos
Radha Mitchell as Lisa Ramos
Christopher Walken as Paul Rayburn
Marc Anthony as Samuel Ramos
Giancarlo Giannini as Miguel Manzano
Mickey Rourke as Jordan Kalfus
Director: Tony Scott

John, an ex-CIA officer, is entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding an entrepreneur’s daughter. When the girl gets kidnapped, John vows to seek revenge.

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Man on Fire is one of Tony Scott’s best movies, a brutal action thriller that is strengthened by the great performances (especially from Denzel Washington), and some stellar direction.

Man on Fire is initially a familiar revenge thriller, and while it certainly fits that genre, at its core it is a character study. This simple story is held together by the complexity of Denzel Washington’s lead character. The trope of having a character with a dark past forming a bond with a character before they are hurt, kidnapped or killed prompting them to get revenge isn’t always the most effective, usually because it doesn’t feel that genuine. Man on Fire however dedicates its first 45 minutes on Washington’s character spending time protecting Dakota Fanning and becoming friends with her. The movie really takes time to develop their relationship and building up these characters and the story instead of just rushing to the part where the protagonist goes loose. Indeed, the rest of the movie is Washington going on a rampage, but the scenes are given so much weight and meaning because of the time spend beforehand. Despite Scott’s often fast pace, it is slower compared to some of his other movies. This slow development really contributes to the emotion and suspense of the second and third acts. Make no mistake, for as brutal as the movie gets, it is an emotionally filled journey.

Denzel Washington gives another phenomenal performance in the lead role. He has the charisma that only he could pull off, and also does well at conveying his character’s backslide into killing again, and is convincingly a force of nature. Dakota Fanning is also really good as the girl that Washington’s character has to protect, and those two share a bond together. While you’ve seen this type of relationship before when it comes to revenge movies with similar plots, it is truly one of the best examples of it. Without this strong central relationship, the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. Christopher Walken is good as Washington’s closest friend, and other actors like Giancarlo Giannini and Mickey Rourke also work well in their parts.

As expected from Tony Scott, his kinetic style is incredibly in your face and it does a lot to serve the overall narrative. With the stylish camerawork, cinematography and editing, it gives this disorientating feeling which helps put us in the protagonist’s perspective. The action is engaging, and the violence is brutal, striking and yet grounded.

Man on Fire is a familiar but well executed revenge thriller, stylishly directed, gripping, and led by a reliably great Denzel Washington. One of Tony Scott’s best films.


Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Violence & offensive language
Eddie Murphy as Detective Axel Foley
Judge Reinhold as Detective Billy Rosewood
Jürgen Prochnow as Maxwell Dent
John Ashton as Sergeant John Taggart
Ronny Cox as Captain Andrew Bogomil
Brigitte Nielsen as Karla Fry
Allen Garfield as Chief Harold Lutz
Paul Reiser as Detective Jeffrey Friedman
Director: Tony Scott

When a series of Alphabet Crimes, wherein the robbers leave behind monogrammed envelopes in high-end stores, rock Beverley Hills, Axel Foley, an undercover detective, is called to help.

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I enjoyed the first Beverly Hills Cop, a fun buddy cop comedy which is boosted by an energetic and entertaining Eddie Murphy in the lead role. I heard some mixed things about the sequel, but the fact that Tony Scott directed it had me interested nonetheless. Overall, I liked it about as much as that first movie.

Beverly Hill Cops II has a pretty familiar and safe script, and feels somewhat like a retread of its predecessor. However, it still retains the entertaining spirit of the original. It moves more towards an action movie direction instead of a fish out of water comedy like the first one was. The humour is pretty funny, though I don’t think the jokes hit as hard or frequently compared to the last movie. Despite the writing not being as strong, I was still entertained throughout.

Fortunately, the sequel retains many of the likable characters from the first movie. Once again, Eddie Murphy is highly entertaining as Axel Foley, and remains one of the best aspects of these movies. The supporting cast is also pretty good, particularly Judge Reinhold and Paul Reiser; they are given a lot more to do here and share some great chemistry with Murphy.

One of the movie’s biggest strengths is the direction, which is more standout here. Tony Scott brings his trademark stylistic visual flair, injecting a lot of energy and action into the film. The action beats are more explosive and are highly entertaining, but the third act is particularly where it kicks into full Tony Scott mode as it goes all out with the set pieces. The music is also pretty good, with solid needle drops and its iconic theme song.

I’d consider Beverly Hills Cop II to be at about the same level of the first movie. It is flawed in some areas; the comedy doesn’t hit as hard and the plot is quite samey for a sequel. At the same time, it has some good performances (with Eddie Murphy delivering as always) and Tony Scott’s action, style and direction makes up for much of the writing issues. Considering how most sequels to action comedies are mixed bags, Beverly Hills Cop II is actually pretty good.

Enemy of the State (1998) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Will Smith as Robert Clayton Dean
Gene Hackman as Edward “Brill” Lyle
Jon Voight as NSA Department Head Thomas Brian Reynolds
Regina King as Carla Dean
Loren Dean as NSA Agent Hicks
Jake Busey as Krug
Barry Pepper as NSA Agent David Pratt
Director: Tony Scott

A videotape containing footage of congressman Phil Hammersley’s murder is planted on a lawyer, Robert Dean. Government operatives, who are trying to retrieve the evidence, target him.

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Tony Scott is known for making lots of action thrillers, and Enemy of the State just might be one of his best.

Enemy of the State is consistently entertaining throughout, with an intriguing story. The stakes are relatively realistic, and the tensions is sustained from beginning to end, as there is a constant feeling of threat. That is helped by a fast pace which keeps the plot constantly moving. It almost feels like the paranoia, conspiracy and political thrillers of the 70s, but mixed with a bombastic Jerry Bruckheimer action flick. With it being about government surveillance, the film has actually aged pretty well. It is kind of funny how it reads like a post 9/11 and Patriot Act movie, but it was released back in 1998, so everything involving the NSA and future US government activities in the 2000s were almost predicted. The plot gets ridiculous at points, but it was entertaining enough that I could easily roll with it. In terms of flaws, it is a little long, and the narrative could get needlessly convoluted at times. Also, there’s some unnecessary subplot where Will Smith’s character’s wife believed that he cheated on her, and while it’s a fairly minor issue, it gets resolved so quickly that it felt like its only there to pad out the runtime.

The movie has an impressive cast. Will Smith is really good in the lead role; if I have this correct, this is one of his earliest ‘dramatic’ roles of his. He sells his character’s confusion and desperation from the situation he’s landed in, but also the humour and charisma. Gene Hackman is another big name, only making his first appearance a considerable way into the movie. He is great though, and the movie really picks up when he enters the film. He is perfectly suited as a paranoid ex-NSA operative, and the scenes between him and Smith are particularly great. Jon Voight is also effective as the villain. However, not everyone has good parts. Some notable names have relatively small parts like Tom Sizemore, Phillip Baker Hall, Gabriel Byrne, Regina King and Lisa Bonet have pretty thankless roles. 

You can tell from the opening scene that this is a Tony Scott film, his style is very much on display. There is this frenetic energy throughout, and the fast paced editing really suits this movie. The editing and cinematography help to convey the feeling that everyone’s actions are being viewed. Unsurprisingly, Scott again delivers some exhilarating and entertaining action scenes. The score from Trevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-Williams really fits the movie, especially in the action and chase scenes.

Enemy of the State isn’t without its issues, mostly with some of the writing and characters. However, it’s a solid political and espionage action thriller that was both of its time and ahead of its time. The actors (especially Will Smith and Gene Hackman) are really good, the plot is intriguing and riveting, and Tony Scott’s great direction made it even better. Well worth checking out.

Unstoppable (2010) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: M – contains offensive language
Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes
Chris Pine as Will Colson
Rosario Dawson as Connie Hooper
Director: Tony Scott

An unmanned, half-mile-long freight train hurtles towards a town at breakneck speed. An engineer and a young conductor, who happen to be on the same route, must race against time to try and stop it.

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Unstoppable is a train focussed action movie from Tony Scott and would be his last film before his death. It’s not one of Scott’s best movies but it is still quite good.

The plot is pretty simple with it being about a train that won’t stop and train workers try to stop it before it causes massive damage. It’s based on true evens and you can probably figure out how it’ll end, though that’s not really a bit problem. It’s very well constructed and has a pretty tight script. It takes a little while to start, but once the train gets loose and begins speeding off, the movie really takes off and doesn’t let up till the end. The high stakes are clearly conveyed, and help to keep you invested. Helping that is the drama and development with the main two characters, which gets you invested in the story, you even get to learn a lot about them in just the first 5 minutes. It’s energetic and paced well through its 98 minute runtime, with a lot of tension and suspense.

Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are great, fitting their roles quite well. Their characters’ progressions and backstories are pretty familiar, but both actors help to sell it, especially with the convincing chemistry. Other actors like Rosario Dawson play their roles well too.

The most striking aspect of the movie however is of course Tony Scott’s direction, delivering his trademark hyperactive style to this movie, especially with the camera zooms, breakneck camerawork and quick cutting. Scott is more than familiar with action at this point, so unsurprisingly the action set pieces are well crafted, tense and fantastic, and manage to feel somewhat grounded. The final act is especially intense, and has a satisfying end.

Unstoppable is a highly energetic, stylised and tense thriller, with a good script, great performances, and has solid direction from Tony Scott.

The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: R16 – contains violence & offensive language
Denzel Washington as Walter Garber
John Travolta as Dennis ‘Ryder’ Ford/Mr. Blue
John Turturro as Lieutenant Vincent Camonetti
Luis Guzmán as Phil Ramos/Mr. Green
Michael Rispoli as John Johnson
James Gandolfini as the Mayor of New York
Director: Tony Scott

A subway dispatcher’s day is thrown into chaos when four armed men hijack the subway train and take the commuters as hostages. They demand USD 10 million from the mayor as ransom.

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Tony Scott’s The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of the 1970s hostage thriller of the same name. I did watch that 1974 original, but its been a while since I saw it, so I am viewing the 2009 version as its own movie. Overall, it is pretty good action thriller.  

The premise is pretty familiar and straightforward, it’s a hostage situation where a subway train is hijacked, and someone has to negotiate with the leader of the hijackers. The script is pretty thin, but it was suspenseful and well paced throughout, and I found it consistently entertaining. It particularly comes alive during the phone interactions between the two leads, it is vibrant, and the back and forth conversations are thrilling.

There is a great cast, but it mostly comes down to Denzel Washington and John Travolta in the lead roles. Washington is reliably good, bringing life to a character in an ordinary job who finds himself caught in a very tense situation, and he helps to get you connected to the story. Travolta plays the leader of the hijackers and that antagonist of the film. His performance is unhinged, campy, psychotic and brash, and he’s clearly having a lot of fun here. He definitely won’t work for everyone, but I liked him here. These two are the driving force of the movie and particularly made for a good pairing because of how much they contrasted against each other. Washington is grounded and underplays things, while Travolta is incredibly over the top. There’s a clear connection between the two characters and they play well off each other, with their interactions being some of the highlights of the movie. There’s also a pretty good supporting cast, with actors like John Turturro, Luis Guzman, James Gandolfini giving solid performances.

Tony Scott directs this with his trademark frenetic style (most evident in his 2000s movies), which really helps to propel things forward. The cinematography is dizzying, frantic and has vibrant colours, the editing is fast paced and flashy, and the action is pretty gripping. With this, Scott does particularly well at adding a lot of visual style to the phone conversations.

The Taking of Pelham 123 is a well made and tense hostage thriller, confidently and stylishly directed by Tony Scott, and with solid lead performances from Denzel Washington and John Travolta. Not one of Scott’s best by any means, but it is pretty good, and worth checking out.

Déjà Vu (2006) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Denzel Washington as ATF Special Agent Douglas Carlin
Paula Patton as Claire Kuchever
Jim Caviezel as Carroll Oerstadt
Val Kilmer as FBI Special Agent Paul Pryzwarra
Adam Goldberg as Dr. Alexander Denny
Director: Tony Scott

Doug joins hands with the FBI in order to investigate a ferry explosion. Using a technique that enables him to look into the past, he also tries his best to save a woman he knows.

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Déjà Vu is possibly one of Tony Scott’s best movies, a stylish action thriller that’s enjoyable throughout.

Déjà Vu takes a familiar sci-fi/time travel concept and handles it in an exciting way. It gets into certain concepts with time bending and wormholes, and while it might not make the most sense, I was willing to go along with what they were saying. There’s also a surprising amount of emotional depth; this is probably one of Scott’s more sentimental and sincere films, with themes involving love transcending time and space. There’s a ton of exposition (mostly to do with explaining time travel), but it worked well enough for me. It is paced very well across its runtime and culminates in a spectacular final act.

As expected, Denzel Washington gives an excellent, charismatic and earnest performance in the lead role of the detective. It also has a solid supporting cast. Paula Patton and Adam Goldberg are good, and Val Kilmer has enjoyable chemistry with Washington.

Tony Scott directs this very well with his familiar style, especially with the cinematography, saturated colours and editing. The action is great, very stylish and frenetic. The standout set piece for me was a car chase where the pursued and pursuer are in two completely different time periods.

Déjà Vu is an entertaining and well directed time travel action thriller from Tony Scott, with creative and exciting set pieces, a surprisingly engaging story, and a good cast of performances led by Denzel Washington.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: M
Eddie Murphy as Detective Axel Foley
Judge Reinhold as Detective William “Billy” Rosewood
John Ashton as Sergeant John Taggart
Lisa Eilbacher as Jeanette “Jenny” Summers
Steven Berkoff as Victor Maitland
Ronny Cox as Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil
Director: Martin Brest

Mikey, police officer Axel Foley’s friend, is murdered soon after he arrives in Detroit. When Axel takes up the investigation, he finds himself embroiled in the criminal world of Beverly Hills.

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I had heard a lot about Beverly Hills Cop, its one of those 80s action comedy classics I heard a lot about, and is led by one of Eddie Murphy’s most iconic roles. I went in knowing just that and I enjoyed it a lot.

The story is straightforward, familiar and has very little surprises. Nothing is outstanding or memorable plotwise. Thankfully, the movie is more focussed on its characters and their interactions, and the plot itself moves quickly. There are plenty of funny situations, scenarios and jokes, and most of them consistently deliver over the course of the movie.

Eddie Murphy is the most known part of the movie, and for good reason. As protagonist fast talking cop Axel Foley, Murphy gives a charismatic and magnetic performance, and is really fun to watch. He carries much of the movie on his own, he’s the key to it working as well as it does. John Aston and Judge Reinhold’s pair of cops make for effective foils to Eddie Murphy’s antics, and altogether make for a solid comedic trio. Other actors like Gilbert R. Hill, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkhoff, Lisa Eilbacher are good in their parts too.

The movie is directed well by Martin Brest. While they aren’t the best parts of the movie, the handful of action set pieces definitely added to the entertainment. The film is also accompanied very well by a very catchy soundtrack.

Beverly Hills Cop is a straightforward but funny and well made buddy cop comedy, and benefits strongly from Eddie Murphy’s great lead performance.

The Covenant (2023) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Jake Gyllenhaal as Master Sgt. John Kinley
Dar Salim as Ahmed
Director: Guy Ritchie

During the war in Afghanistan, a local interpreter risks his own life to carry an injured sergeant across miles of gruelling terrain.

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The Covenant (sometimes known as Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, likely to avoid confusion with the 5 other movies also called the Covenant) was a movie that I was interested in, even just for the director. I generally like Guy Ritchie, but I particularly liked his recent string of movies of the 2020s starting with The Gentlemen. The Covenant however looks like a different movie from him, not only a war movie set in Afghanistan, but one that looked gritty and grounded and lacking the strong style that the director was known for. I thought it was quite good.

The Covenant is up there with Wrath of Man as one of Guy Ritchie’s most different movies. It is a modern war movie, and as such the story is rather familiar yet predictable. Still it works and it is executed well. It has a serious tone, tackles darker themes and showcases the consequences of the Afghanistan war, as well as the impact it had on civilian populations. There’s a good balance between the action sequences and character moments. The pacing can be a little messy and sluggish at times, but it picks up as it goes along and it is fairly riveting all the way through.

There’s a cast of good performances, but it mostly comes down to Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim; they help to elevate the screenplay and get you invested in the story. Gyllenhaal gives another reliably great performance, and Salim is incredible, probably the standout in the cast. There’s a compelling dynamic between the two characters, and the actors commit to their parts in such a way that the connection is strong and believable.

Guy Ritchie directs this well, and has made probably the least Guy Ritchie movie yet. The cinematography is strong and striking, the camera work is exceptional, and the lighting and colour pallet enhanced the story. Additionally, the editing is on point, and the sound design and mixing were excellent. The action is intense and chaotic, and realistically executed, and there are many suspenseful sequences. It lacks Ritchie’s usual style, but it is for the better in this case. While it is definitely an R rated movie, the violence is fairly restrained by the director’s standards (especially when compared to the likes of Wrath of Man). However, this probably works for the more grounded approach. Christopher Benstead has been Ritchie’s go to composer ever since The Gentlemen, and considering his scores always elevates the movies, it’s for good reason. His music does for The Covenant what it did for Wrath of Man. The phenomenal score adds another level of suspense and elevates the film to a whole other level, and its already one of the year’s best film scores.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is a solid and strongly directed war thriller, made better by the great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim, good action, and an incredible score. It’s not one of Ritchie’s best, but it’s pretty good, and is worth checking out.

Fast X (2023) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Violence
Vin Diesel as Dominic “Dom” Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Ludacris as Tej Parker
John Cena as Jakob Toretto
Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Scott Eastwood as Little Nobody
Daniela Melchior as Isabel Neves
Alan Ritchson as Aimes
Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Ellmanson-Shaw
Brie Larson as Tess
Rita Moreno as Abuelita Toretto
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw
Jason Momoa as Dante Reyes
Charlize Theron as Cipher
Director: Louis Leterrier

Over many missions and against impossible odds, Dom Toretto and his family have outsmarted and outdriven every foe in their path. Now, they must confront the most lethal opponent they’ve ever faced. Fueled by revenge, a terrifying threat emerges from the shadows of the past to shatter Dom’s world and destroy everything — and everyone — he loves.

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I am a fan of the Fast and Furious movies, even with their obvious absurdity and issues, I have fun with them. So I was interested in the upcoming movie, but I was particularly interested in the fact that it the series is apparently coming to its close, with Fast X essentially being a 3 film (previously 2 film) story. I had a lot of fun with this one.

Plotwise, it is certainly in line with the past movies, so if you’re familiar enough with them, you can figure out quickly whether you’ll be into Fast X or not. The last movie F9 got a little too convoluted, but Fast X is refreshingly straightforward. While it is apparently building up some vague ‘war’, at its core, it’s about the main villain going after Dominic Toretto and his family for revenge. Like F9, Fast X has the Fast family splitting off into separate groups with their own subplots, and once again it did feel a little awkward and overstuffed at times. Thankfully, it retains the tone and approach that makes these movies so endearing. I maintain that the sincerity is the key ingredient that makes these movies uniquely entertaining, and at least different to any other modern blockbuster involving cars. The Fast and Furious franchise is basically a big soap opera, whether it be characters dying then later revealed to be alive, or villains becoming friends (or at allies). This adds a unique flavour to these movies which make theme particularly enjoyable, although they can get a little too carried away with this sometimes. Fast & Furious (2009) got a little too self serious with its revenge plot, and the flashbacks of F9 fell into that too. Fast X is more balanced however, it is willing to defy the laws of physics for entertainment, but isn’t snarky or self conscious about it, and is genuine with its story and characters.

It is a fairly long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, but is well paced enough that I was generally entertained throughout. The exceptions are a couple of scenes which halt the plot purely with comedy, the standout being a scene involving a celebrity cameo which I really could’ve done without. As I said earlier, Fast X is really part 1 of a 3 part story, and its worth knowing that before going into it. It’s actually surprising that it wasn’t added in the film’s title or addressed as such in the opening or closing credits. That’s really the only explanation I have for why much of the story feels incomplete, with plenty of unanswered questions, and characters which didn’t receive as much attention as others. So I can imagine some unaware viewers will be frustrated by its cliffhanger ending. I am willing to wait and see how the next two movies continue this story, but much of Fast X’s quality will depend on whether they can deliver. For what it is worth, if you have some investment in the franchise, you should probably stick around for the mid credits scene.

Much of the main Fast and Furious cast return, with Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang and more reprising their roles. They do well enough in their screentime, though some get to do more than others. For example, Jason Statham but doesn’t have much to do here, no doubt because his scenes are just setting up things for the next films. On the other hand, John Cena was one of the highlights in a far less villainous role compared to his last appearance. Charlize Theron also returns in a different sort of role here, and while she isn’t the driving force of the movie or anything, this is probably her best appearance in the franchise yet, even getting to do some action. There are also some newer actors to the series, including Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, and Brie Larson, and they’re good in their screentime. However, the standout of the whole movie is Jason Momoa, who is by far the best villain of the franchise, but also the most fun I’ve seen an actor have in these movies. It helps that the movie does well at framing his character Dante as this unstoppable force, but Momoa also delivers a highly campy and charismatic performance (which at times feels like he’s riffing on the Joker). The movie lights up whenever he comes on screen; he knows what kind of movie he’s in, and Fast X would’ve been a much worse movie without him.

Justin Lin was originally directing the movie, but left part way during filming due to ‘creative differences’. He was replaced by Louis Leterrier, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be since his filmography is a bit of a mixed bag. That said, Fast X is one of his stronger movies. The action is entertaining, over the top and contains some absurd stunts. I even like the creativity in the way things are filmed, especially with the use of drones. Otherwise, the direction is on a level that you’d expect from a movie of this franchise. As far as technical issues go, the opening scene started things on an awkward note. It calls back to Fast Five and places Jason Momoa’s character in the climax of that movie, and the messy editing did make it a bit weird. I also noticed some other weirdly edited moments in the first third, but I think it improves as it goes along.

As expected, Fast X is another absurd, wonderfully melodramatic and entertaining entry in the Fast and Furious franchise with over the top action, and is boosted by a delightfully villainous Jason Momoa. It’s better than the last few movies but doesn’t quite reach the heights of 5-7. Needless to say, if you’ve never enjoyed any of these movies, this won’t change your mind. If you get any kind of enjoyment from them however, I think you’ll have some fun with this one.

Fast & Furious (2009) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: M – contains violence, offensive language and sexual references
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
John Ortiz as Ramon Campos
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Laz Alonso as Fenix Calderon
Director: Justin Lin

Dominic Toretto, an ex-convict, and an FBI agent, Brian O’Connor, wish to take down heroin importer, Arturo Braga. However, they must team up and overcome their distrust to be successful.

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Compared to the other movies in the Fast and Furious franchise, I wasn’t as familiar with Fast & Furious (2009). It might’ve been the first movie from the series I watched, but that was so long ago and I barely remembered it, so I decided to check it out again. This is usually placed alongside 2 Fast 2 Furious as the worst of the franchise and having seen it I can see why, but I still enjoyed it.

The weird title implies that they were attempting a soft reboot, while having a reunion of the original Fast and Furious characters. As far as references to the previous movies go, it does have Han Lue (Sung Kang) who was in the previous movie Tokyo Drift. Otherwise, it is a continuation of the story from the first movie set 5 years later. While all the movies tied into street racing in some way, the 2009 film has something of a different story with it being about revenge. It was definitely on its way to having its shake up in approach in Fast Five. Unfortunately, the plot is pretty forgettable and isn’t particularly interesting, lacking the energy of the previous movies. Also, the plot becomes weirdly convoluted when it shouldn’t be that complicated. I feel like the key element in the Fast and Furious movies that make it stand out from just being car movies with the action being the only draw is its sincerity. That being said, the fourth movie takes itself a bit too seriously, with its considerably darker story. This doesn’t help considering that much of the movie is already silly even beyond the over the top action. A major part of the movie is how Letty (Michelle Rodrgieuz) is killed and Dom goes looking for revenge, and there’s literally a scene where he mentally recreates a crime scene which he wasn’t present for and sees her death like he’s Sherlock Holmes or something. So while I appreciate the attempt at being slightly different, it doesn’t work at being serious or fun.

The acting and characters are a bit of a mixed bag, but it was nice seeing the original Fast and Furious actors and characters reprise their roles with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. Between them, Walker’s Brian O’Conner probably gets the most development, so there’s that at least. Gal Gadot makes her first appearance in the franchise here, but doesn’t really do a whole lot, and her character of Giselle is very underdeveloped. It’s also capped off with a very forgettable antagonist played by John Ortiz.

Justin Lin returns from the last Fast and Furious movie (Tokyo Drift) to direct the fourth installment, and the film does benefit from his slick direction. The set pieces have their moments, the stunts are great, and the scenes can get tense at times. The opening sequence is quite entertaining, unfortunately nothing else in the movie is as memorable as that first scene, or even the action of the previous movies.

Fast & Furious (2009) is best described as a stepping stone movie. It is definitely important for the main story, but even with its attempt at a soft reboot, ironically its follow up movie succeeds much better. I agree that it is one of the worst in the franchise, but it still decent enough. While the plot isn’t that interesting, it is enjoyable, especially with the solid direction and entertaining and over the top action scenes. The best thing about the movie is that it led the way for Fast Five.