The films in the Fast and the Furious series have gotten progressively dumber since the harmlessly energetic 2001 original, and the latest, reductively called Fast & Furious, takes it a step lower. Not only is the story silly, but there's not even much car-racing in it -- and why would anyone want to watch this movie if it doesn't have a lot of car-racing in it?

Like the rest of us, Fast & Furious has nothing to say about the last film, Tokyo Drift. instead, it picks up a few years after 2 Fast 2 Furious left off. Thick-necked carjacker Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and surfer-voiced FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) are reunited when both have cause to infiltrate a Mexico-based drug cartel operating in Los Angeles. Dominic's reasons are personal and revenge-based, while Brian has the law on his side.

As luck would have it, the mysterious drug kingpin Arturo Braga is looking for expert drivers, which Dom and Brian both happen to be. If they can prove themselves worthy in a street race (who would have guessed?) they're hired, giving them access to the inner workings of the cartel. I guess this is more effective for Braga than conducting traditional job interviews.

It all amounts to far more espionage and intrigue than a movie that's ostensibly about fast cars ought to have. I would like to have witnessed the pitch meeting where the screenwriter, Chris Morgan (Tokyo Drift), convinced the producers that an emphasis on Dom and Brian's personal lives would be of much greater interest than car racing. They must be kicking themselves now for believing him, because here's the finished product -- with lots of dumb storytelling and only a couple auto-racing sequences -- and it's worse. It turns out minimizing the one entertaining element of a franchise was a BAD idea!