Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, and Dwayne Johnson
Runtime: 130 min.
by Brian Eggert
Original Release Date:
Here we go again. Another helping of fast cars, muscular bromance, and barely dressed women amassed for crowds of motorheads. Fast Five, the fifth entry in the Fast/Furious franchise, defies much: Preposterous action scenes defy the laws of physics; the franchise’s increasing success rate defies Hollywood’s trend of diminishing returns with each new sequel; the movie itself defies its predecessors by being watchable. Somehow, after several mind-numbing sequels, the filmmakers behind this series have managed to improve upon their formula and produce a reasonably enjoyable movie, easily the best this series has to offer. Not to imply this is a good movie, merely the most entertaining in a succession of inexcusable trash.
So what’s new about this one that makes it different? Not much, that’s for sure; they’ve just picked different clichés. Writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin (behind the camera since Tokyo Drift) retain an escalating degree of impossible car chases and stunts, this time not so obviously enhanced by CGI. The most significant change is that all the usual Fast/Furious elements are contained within a plot reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven—from the gathering of familiar faces for one big heist, straight down to the last-minute switcheroo, the scheme comes close to plagiarism. Instead of frivolous street races (although, there are those too), the movie revolves around the planning and execution of a major score. But within the limitations of making one franchise look like another, there’s no end to the overlapping clichés. Dozens of action and heist movie lines like “now it’s personal” and “this is a suicide mission” and “just this one last job” crop up throughout. Still, keeping it simple is probably for the best. We wouldn’t want to confuse Paul Walker.
In the pre-title sequence, ex-undercover cop Brian (Walker) and his sweetheart, Mia (Jordana Brewster), organize a jailbreak for his best buddy Dominic (Vin Diesel). Wanted by the authorities, they escape to Rio and before long make enemies with your typical South American drug kingpin, Reyes (Joaquim de Almedia). Bent on getting back at Reyes for a double-cross, they organize a crew (including “the mouth” Tyrese Gibson, “the techie” Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, “the chameleon” Sung Kang, “the guns” Gal Gadot, and the comic relief due of Tego Calderon and Don Omar) to rob Reyes of $100 million in cash he’s stashed in a police evidence safe. Meanwhile, Dom and company are tracked by an elite U.S. special agent named Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), whose approach Brian describes as “wrath of god kind of stuff”, a label that never lives up to its name.
Delaying the inevitable (and disappointing) head-to-head fisticuffs between Diesel and The Rock (the latter sports a goatee so we can tell them apart) are disposable scenes of unintentionally funny character development to pad the movie’s intolerable length. No one watching cares much about a pregnancy subplot or budding romance between Dom and a local cop. The rest of the more-than-two-hour runtime consists of dropping crumbs to a meticulous heist scenario, the specific details of which, in true Ocean’s style, we don’t discover until it plays out onscreen. Not that the eventual execution delivers any intelligent surprises—it involves driving a truck through police headquarters, latching the vault to two muscle cars via heavy cable, and dragging it through the streets of Rio. Anyone expecting subtlety over pure brashness forgot this movie makes the fourth sequel to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, stars an actor who changed his last name to “Diesel”, and features Walker’s high-school stage level of acting.
Indeed, since there have been some comparisons between franchises in this review, try to balance Vin Diesel and Paul Walker against Ocean’s stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and when the talent scale tips toward the latter two, you understand why this franchise will never be more than just fodder for car enthusiasts. Fast Five feels like a dumbed-down version of better movies, relying on its illogical but diverting action sequences to provide Y-chromosome brand entertainment. To be sure, moviegoers looking for something loud and brainless to kick off their summer movie season will no doubt enjoy this almost guaranteed commercial success, with “brainless” being the decisive qualifier.