With “Fast Five,” the 5th movie in “The Fast & The Furious” franchise, the filmmakers have seemingly run out of ways to include both “fast” and “furious” together in the same movie title. Does that mean this sequel is less furious than the others? Granted, this franchise started a decade ago, but you’d think they still would find a way to put those two words together in such a clever fashion. What, “2 Fast 2 Furious” wasn’t clever enough? How about these ones?
“Fast & Furious Times 5”
“Faster & Even More Furious”
“Fast & Furious To The 5th Power”
“Infinitely Fast & Furious”
Well, while only “fast” made it onto the marquee this time around, this movie is most definitely not lacking in fury. “Fast Five” is gloriously mindless entertainment, filled with one preposterous action sequence after another. It won’t be mistaken for any cinematic classic and much of what’s on display if seriously improbable, but it’s so much fun in the end, so who cares? This right now is going to be to the Summer 2011 season what “The A-Team” was to Summer 2010, an over the top blockbuster that is unapologetic in its quest to entertain longtime fans. You can complain about its flaws, but that would just be taking all the ridiculous fun out of it.
Now I did put “Ocean’s Fourteen” on the list for a good reason; whereas the previous movies dealt with car racing, “Fast Five” is actually more of a heist film as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and company work out a plan to steal $100 million from a corrupt businessman. If they succeed with their destructive cleverness, they will be able to buy the freedom they no longer can afford.
This one starts where “‘Fast & Furious” ended as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is being hauled off to prison in a bus to serve a 20 plus year sentence, but his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) end up breaking him out after making the bus he’s on crash in such spectacular fashion. Seriously, the bus crash here puts the one from “Another 48 Hours” to shame, and it’s designed to let audiences know just how bad the car crashes are gonna hurt this time around.
From there, the story moves to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where Dom and company choose to hide out from the law. But since being on the run sucks your wallet dry, they take a job to steal 3 very valuable cars from a moving train. But this all goes awry when it turns out the cars are seized property of the DEA, one of which has some important information regarding this sequel’s main bad guy businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and all that cash he has saved up (and probably doesn’t pay taxes on). From there, the heist is on even as a relentless DSS agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), arrives to take this elusive team down for good.
Justin Lin returns for his third movie as director in this series. I still haven’t gotten around to checking out “‘Tokyo Drift,” but I felt he did good work with the previous entry “Fast & Furious.” But this time he really outdoes himself with the stunts that, while highly improbable (to put it mildly), have us feeling their dramatically LOUD impact to where we’re saying to ourselves:
Now if Lin made any mistakes in the last two sequels, he has certainly learned his lessons from them. Even if its stealing cars from a train that’s moving as fast a bullet, he’s got the audience enthralled as he moves the story along at a rapid pace, preventing us from examining the logistics of what we’re seeing (or lack thereof). Many will look at “Fast Five” as your basic a guilty pleasure, but something this entertaining should not make you feel guilty about enjoying it at all. “Troll 2” on the other hand —
I’m also glad to see Brian Tyler back as film composer too. His combination of symphonic music and electronic elements matches the maximum propulsion of what’s speeding past us onscreen. However fast the vehicles are traveling, Tyler’s film score matches their velocity and gives those “OUCH” moments some extra oomph.
It’s great to seeing the gang back once again, especially Vin Diesel who made a welcome and much-needed return to this franchise in “Fast & Furious.” While his style of acting hasn’t changed much, he owns his role as “Dom” like no other. Trying to substitute another actor in his place has already proven to be a mistake (however profitable), and his presence alone infuses Dom with a “don’t mess with me” attitude that is irreplaceable.
Even Paul Walker is a welcome presence here, long after many called him bland and unconvincing in the role of undercover cop Brian O’Conner. I don’t know, maybe it’s all that stubble on his chiseled face, but he has long since grown into the role whether critics like him or not. If his presence bothered me in the previous entries, it didn’t this time around.
I was also glad to see Jordana Brewster get more to do this time around as Mia Toretto. While her character was underused the last time around, she has a much more central part to this movie in ways I’d rather not get into, but which will become obvious to the audience in no time. She gets to drive a little more in this one, and she looks out for everyone whether they’re in or out of cars.
“Fast Five” also acts as kind of a greatest hits collection of the franchise in that it brings together characters from the other films. Joining the crazy heist are Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) from “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Vince (Matt Schulze) from “The Fast & The Furious,” Han Lue (Sung Kang) from “The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot) from “Fast & Furious,” and Tej Parker (Ludacris) from “2 Fast 2 Furious”‘ to name a few. Seeing them interact with each other is a kick, especially when Tyrese and Ludacris keep busting each others balls over whose better at what. With these two, it’s like they’re in one rap battle after another without the mics in their hands and any audience cheering them on.
But the big addition to the franchise this time around is Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent determined to bring Toretto down for once and for all. With his bulging muscles and pronounced tattoos, Dwayne hasn’t looked this badass since “The Rundown.” Seeing him drowning in all these dopey family movies like “The Tooth Fairy” and “The Pacifier” (okay, the last one starred Vin Diesel, but it could have easily starred Dwayne) got increasingly depressing over time. While he still ain’t no Laurence Olivier, his relentless presence in “Fast Five” gives Dom and company one of their toughest adversaries yet. It made me want to see him bring his moniker of “The Rock” out of retirement (for the movies anyway).
The series overall (specifically Parts 1, 4, and 5) has kept a solid longevity not just because of the spectacular action, but with strong characters who (despite their law breaking ways) make you want to root for them even after they pass the finish line. Even while we may not buy two muscle cars driving at high speed while towing an enormous metallic bank safe through the busy streets of Brazil, we care about them enough to see them get away with it.
Having now watched “Fast Five,” it feels like it’s’ been forever since I have seen so many cars get gleefully destroyed. Perhaps if John Landis had made the sequel to “The Blues Brothers”‘ more like this one, it would have been much better as a result. Remember how many police cars bit the dust in that one? This sequel almost tops that!
So is this the end of this franchise? Well, all I can tell you is to make sure that you stay through the end credits and that should easily answer your question. Of course, they need to come up with yet another clever title. Somehow, “6 Fast 6 Furious” doesn’t make much sense. How about these ones?
“Fast & Furious To The 6”
“6 Times As Fast, 6 Times As Furious”
“Still So Damn Fast & Furious”
“Beyond Fast & Furious”
“The Furious Six”
“Faster Than 6”
“Faster and More Furious Than 60”
“Sexy Six” (a guy sitting next to me in the movie theater suggested that one)
Or how about “The Toretto Brothers?” Jake and Elwood Blues may outdo these guys in the music business, but not in racing a quarter mile at a time!
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Fast & Furious