The Summer movie season has kicked off a week early with Fast Five, sneaking in the schedule a week ahead of Marvel’s Thor. Fast Five (for the uninitiated) is the fifth installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise—a series of films that at one point had lost its two leading stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Once both men needed career revivals two years ago, Justin Lin, the director of Tokyo Drift (the third installment) brought back Diesel and Walker for the most lucrative film in the franchise. Now that it has been ten years since the original film debuted in 2001, I am shocked to find this franchise finding any relevancy in a busy market. Look at how Scream 4 was recently burned alive. But I suppose if you build a flick around macho guys, babes, fast cars, guns, and explosions, audiences will find it.
Fast Five picks up where Fast and Furious left off. Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) has been convicted of his past run-ins with the law and is off to prison. Do you think he gets there? Neither did I. Former Fed Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) take on a major rescue operation involving the rollover of a bus carrying the prisoners. The team reunites in Rio for a heist of pricey sports cars. The plan is ridiculous—torch the side of a train moving at 70 mph or so, align a moving loading ramp along the side, and drive the cars from inside the locomotive off the train via the ramp. Unfortunately for the gang, the men they are working with have alternative plans, and the job goes sour. Dom and Brian escape in one of the stolen cars (in a ridiculous physics-defying sequence) and soon realize they are in possession of a computerized microchip installed in the vehicle that has the personal accounting information of the notorious druglord they were pulling the job for—worth $100 million. Dom sees this as an opportunity to pull off “one amazing last heist that will have him walk away from crime forever.” Brian, having just realized he is a father-to-be with Mia, is down. But they need to assemble a team, featuring a herd of F&F series veterans: Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sung Kang, and others. The band of thugs meet up in Rio to plot the smash-and-grab, but the stakes become greater as a Special Forces strike team led by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson—bulky and sweaty as ever) is on the trail of Torretto and O’Connor, and will do whatever it takes to bring them down.
If Fast Five is to be enjoyed, it can only be enjoyed as a cheesefest. I still don’t know if I actually liked it, however, I can say I was entertained. The series has been off and on for me, but it never quite works without Vin Diesel behind the wheel. Luckily Justin Lin has decided to shift the series and turn it into a straightforward action franchise and shed much of the street racing antics. We still get some of that, and several shiny autos, but F&F is now all bang-bang mayhem with lives at stake. The action reminded me of Peter Berg film. It’s gritty, intense, fast-moving, merciless—all the while in a PG-13 landscape. A lot of people get brutally killed in Fast Five, but there is little-to-no bloodshed to be seen. The ‘heroes’ continually manage to narrowly escape being hurt or killed as bands of assault-rifle wielding good guys and bag guys pursue them, so much so that it doesn’t take long for them to mirror a pack of roadrunners being chased by a bunch of witless coyotes. The mano-a-mano brawl between Diesel and Johnson (soon to be infamous) has them bludgeoning each other to pulps, but there is hardly a blood drop, and by the next scene they are just fine. I picture these two freight trains crashing into each other in a very impressive and violent duel, and walking away without a dent. It doesn’t make sense at all. But, hey, the franchise wouldn’t sell as an R-rated film.
In the end, Lin’s film is a walking vegetable. It may be completely brain-dead, but it sure has a pulse. Luckily the man knows how to stage action sequences and film them in such a way that the audience can comprehend what is going on and to whom it’s happening. I appreciate a visual style that makes sense in a market so influenced by those Jason Bourne films. Granted, the action in Fast Five is completely impossible—and I won’t dare to spoil the outrageous howlers of sequences boiling over in this installment—but at least you can follow it and appreciate it as an over-the-top exercise in macho excess. Diesel and Johnson bring charisma and presence to the table and ultimately make this movie, one that’s about 20 minutes too long and full of actors meant to ‘function’ rather than ‘act.’ So if you’re in for some hich-octane stupidity, constant eight-word catchphrases, and a series that is now dangerously becoming the next Saw franchise in terms of re-appearing characters and loosely connected plot threads across the previous installments, then Fast Five is exactly what you’re looking for in mindless entertainment.
Last 5 posts by Matt V
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