Lacking a Punch 

Vin Diesel mopes a lot as he returns to the film franchise that made him a star

Vin Diesel returns to the series that made him a big star with Fast and Furious, a tiresome speedy-car movie. Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster are also back for a sequel that kind of stinks, even though it is better than the previous two installments. Things have really deteriorated since the fun original.

Dominic (Diesel) has been hijacking gas trucks on mountainous, treacherous highways. He can't wait for the truck driver to pull over to take a dump or have a smoke. No, that would be too easy. Instead, he stages high-speed, high-risk robberies during which he makes his girlfriend, Letty (Rodriguez), jump onto the moving trucks. Not only must she detach the payload from the rig; she must do it before the big turn in the road. Of course, beyond that big turn is a cliff with a treacherous drop.

Yeah, the beginning is stupid, but it's fun to watch. Regrettably, the fun doesn't last, as Dominic leaves Letty to continue on ... alone. He must be alone, for he is Vin Diesel, and he is a mope-master. It's easier to mope when alone.

After he has fully commenced deep moping, Dominic receives a phone call that a friend has been murdered. He then enters a stage of more intense moping, which actually qualifies as brooding. He will seek revenge, and he will seek it in slow motion. Have you ever noticed how Vin Diesel speaks and acts in slow motion? He's even in slow motion when he's shouting and punching people.

Where is Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner during all of this, you ask? He's in Los Angeles, wearing a suit and being a good, proper FBI agent. That is, until the FBI needs somebody to pose as a street racer again. That's when the bad boy emerges. Then, some nonsense involving a heroin dealer who may or may not have had something to do with the death of Dominic's friend causes Brian and Dominic to join forces and, yes, drive cars really fast.

When he's super-angry, Dominic punches the crap out of Brian. He has Brian pinned on the ground, and we see full-force punches repeatedly pummeling Brian in the face. However, Brian remains conscious and emerges without a scratch; he's able to attend work the following day without a messed-up face. That Vin Diesel must punch like an elderly nun.

The first film worked well, because Diesel had not yet become a caricature of himself, and director Rob Cohen knew how to stage and film a street race. Justin Lin (who also directed the stupid The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) manages a couple of semi-interesting sequences (like the intro and a race through crowded L.A. streets), but that's not enough to keep the film alive during its boring expository stretches.

Some of the race action takes place in underground caves, and it's not exactly spine-tingling stuff. Perhaps they should've thrown in a couple of the cave creatures from The Descent, grabbing on to the fast-moving vehicles, spitting blood on the windshields and trying to bite off heads. Perhaps that would've aroused Diesel out of his constant state of morose bemusement. Nah, probably not.

Work is already underway on a fifth chapter. One thing is for sure: Each installment in this series inspires every lame-assed dickweed with a spoiler on their Nissan Sentra to peel out in the parking lot after a showing. My recommendation: If you have to go and see this, let these assholes blow by for about 10 minutes before you leave your parking space, so you won't find yourself drag-racing to the exits.

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