Fast & Furious (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker return for the fourth installment of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. The two find a common enemy but with completely different motivations. Diesel wants revenge for the death of the woman he loves (Michelle Rodrigues), while Walker, now working for the FBI, is assigned to arrest the ringleader of a drug importer in Mexico. I actually was less interested in the story and character development (though there was barely any here) and wanted to see more intense car chases. Whenever a scene doesn’t focus on the chases, the characters manage to talk like robots consisting of lame and laughable one-liners. The one that really made me laugh was when Jordana Brewster and Walker were talking in a cafe. Brewster tried to be insightful by saying something like, “Ever think of the possibility that you’re really a bad guy pretending to be a good guy?” Walker responds by saying that he does, pretty much all the time. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes (and laugh) because I felt like I was watching a really bad soap opera. I would’ve liked this movie a lot more if it took the “Transporter 2” route and embraced its cartoonish nature instead of trying to pretend like something it’s not. I came into this movie expecting exciting car sequences and I got just that. And it was nice to see Walker and Diesel team up once again because they really do have an interesting brotherly chemistry. But I’m not recommending the movie because the writer (Chris Morgan) and director (Justin Lin) tried to inject too many banal scenes where characters are moping around and wasting time. Brainless teenagers will most likely enjoy this flick because it’s undeniably a lowbrow entertainment that features nothing more than insightful than fast cars and big explosions.
Set It Off (1996)
★★★ / ★★★★
This film was about four ladies (Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise) who decided to pull off several bank robberies to untangle themselves from each of their respective binds. Smith wanted to put her brother through college, Latifah wanted to customize her car, Elise needed the money to get her son out of the city’s protective custody because they suspected that she was a negligent parent, and Fox was fired from her bank teller job because she “didn’t follow procedure” when another group of criminals robbed the bank she was working in. I’m glad that this film did not fall into an all too common trap of featuring criminals who do “bad things” just because they were African-American. F. Gary Gray, the director, actually took the time to establish each of the four leads so the audiences could truly understand their motivations. I actually rooted for the leading ladies even though, indeed, they decided to rob banks and harmed people along the way. I felt the desperation of each character. I completely understood that their actions were not who they were on the inside. In fact, they really were good people who were pushed into a wall without any means of escape other than to attack the aggressor (in this case, the cops and the law). I also liked the fact that Latifah’s character being a lesbian was not a big deal. It was simply who she was and there was no need to comment on it. Still, this picture is far from perfect. The four characters have street-smarts so I expected them to get better at what they did (robbing banks) as the film went on. Instead, eventually all of them became too sloppy and risk-taking. Not one would them suggested that they slowed down or planned things more thoroughly especially when the banks that they decided to rob became increasingly more difficult to get through. Despite its shortcomings, I’m giving this movie a recommendation because it was nice to see Black actresses carry an entire film. Most pictures I’ve seen of this kind usually go to white men so “Set It Off” offers a nice change.
The Transporter (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★
I have to give it to Jason Statham for always impressing me in his movies even though the movie itself is pretty average. I guess it’s because I find him so charismatic to the point where I am able to watch him in any movie and maybe even convince myself that I like it even though I really don’t. Thankfully, I don’t need any convincing here. Sure, the action is over-the-top, there isn’t much story, and somehow pretty much all characters know martial arts but I didn’t care about its flaws at the end of the day because I was really entertained (not to mention it was over in just about an hour and twenty-five minutes). Statham is all over the place (in a good way): one minute he’s being shot from under a truck, the next minute he’s diving off a plane. He is so convincing as Frank Martin, the transporter who likes to adhere to his rules of business but one day decides to break the rules because he sees something in Lai (played by Qi Shu). Statham expertly balances quiet intensity and vulnerability and that’s what separates him from other action stars. Matt Schulze (as Wall Street) and Ric Young (as Mr. Kwai) are pretty good (but average) villains because they can look mean and shoot guns. I wish the two would’ve had two separate goals, which could’ve been a better movie because that would mean that the story wouldn’t be as predictable. “The Transporter” is harmless fun with one outstanding scene (the grease fight). It’s definitely more for the boys because it’s hyperkinetic, there’s a lot of bodies getting shot and bones being broken. However, there’s also eye candy for the girls.