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Summer movies - to use a term that has no real definition but rather evokes a mild putdown - arrive earlier and earlier.  Fast & Furious makes no bones about what it is.  From its jaw-dropping, credulity-straining but no less entertaining opening sequence, Fast & Furious does not shrink away from what it is.  What is that, exactly?  A summer movie with reckless abandon, of course!  And it's the first week of April!

Fast & Furious is (technically) the fourth installment in the surprise hit franchise thrown into overdrive with 2001's The Fast and the Furious.  Fast & Furious returns to take another lap, this time with all the 'original players' from the first incarnation.  I have to admit, that did bring me back to the franchise.  Who doesn't want to see what's up with Dom (Vin Diesel) & Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) -the best incarnation of Bonnie & Clyde for the millennial generation?  And what about Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) - was he still skirting the edge between law and lawlessness? 

If you have even a mild curiosity about these questions then Fast & Furious will not disappoint.  From beginning to end, Fast & Furious is loaded with car chases, car crashes, plenty of action and pretty young things.  That's the appeal of the franchise, for better or for worse. 

Sure, the movie suffers from what action sequels tend to suffer from: more money and more story.   The original's appeal was simple.  The Fast and the Furious was a basic story of a young cop going undercover to get the bad guy.  Along the way, the audience got to 'discover' and explore the underground world of illegal street-racing among gangs in Los Angeles.  In that way, The Fast and the Furious was reminiscent of AIP productions from the early 1960s, cheaply made flicks exposing and sensationalizing subcultures tinged with danger and illegalities.  Fun!!!

In 2009, Fast & Furious returns to L.A. and the street-racing but beefs up the motivations and plotlines.  That's not advisable.  Slowing down to ponder things like revenge and relationships exposes the film's limitations, namely acting ranges and plot holes.  Better to jettison such trifles and focus on the spectacle of muscle cars burning rubber, flamboyant urban characters and Paul Walker's blue-eyed, chiseled good looks.

When things speed up, whether on the streets of LA or the Mexican desert, Fast & Furious works.  Start your engines, check your GPS and go summer movie time!