By Joshua Rich
April 08, 2009 at 05:00 PM EDT

As we all know by now, Fast & Furious blew away the competition at the box office over the weekend, shocking Hollywood with its $71 mil debut. Amazing. And in the days since, most of the focus, not surprisingly, has been on leading man Vin Diesel, who returned to refuel the F&F series after several years — and several film flops of his own. His is the big comeback everyone’s been talking about, his is the one we’ll be hearing about for a while to come, and, hey, I’m glad for him. I like the guy (especially in relatively understated character roles like the ones he had in Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room).

But what I really want to know is whether Diesel’s F&F costars Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez will also be able to use last weekend’s success as a much-needed spark plug for their careers. While Walker’s decisions have been hit (Eight Below, Flags of Our Fathers) and miss (Timeline, Into the Blue) since the original Fast and the Furious struck gold in 2001, he’s never been able to shed his himbo persona — or even adequately capitalize on it in any entertaining way. (No, Into the Blue does not count: I said “entertaining.”) And thanks to a potentially lethal combination of off-screen behavior issues and a consistently surly on-screen attitude, Rodriguez has squandered some of the goodwill that resulted from her notable work in Girlfight (her first movie) and Blue Crush (so much better than Into the Blue…I mean, like in a different universe), and from her brief, semi-disappointing tailie turn on Lost.

Now, with Hollywood paying attention once again and people looking at them and seeing dollar signs, you’ve gotta think these two have a chance to ride the wave they never fully caught earlier this decade. Think they can do it, PopWatchers? And, in your opinion, which one stands a better chance of long-term success?

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