“Fast Five” has torn up the box office since it opened three weekends ago at the number one spot. As of May 16, 2011, the film has earned $171,283,530 in the U.S. alone (per boxofficemojo.com). These “fast” box office numbers don’t lie. Director Justin Lin has re-energized the fifth installment of the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise making this entry the best of the five. Lin has made an incredibly thrilling action picture with gorgeous fast cars, and more importantly he’s also played up the themes of family, loyalty and honor within a crew that is both gender- and color-blind. “Fast Five” appeals to men and women across all demographics. What a smart and welcome change for an action film.
“Fast Five” starts with Dom (Vin Diesel) being “stolen” out of custody by Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom’s sister/Brian’s girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster). Laying low, the trio finds themselves as outlaws in Rio de Janeiro. Accepting a job to heist some cars from a moving train, the trio are back on the run after the heist goes bad and federal agents are killed (but not by Dom). Corrupt businessman, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) blames the deaths on Dom, which is easy since he has the police and politicians in his back pocket. So for a “final” job, Dom decides pull a heist against Reyes. He assembles his loyal team (and stars from the earlier films), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Han Lue (Sung Kang), Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot), Tego Leo (Tego Calderon), Rico Santos (Don Omar) and old team player Vince (Matt Schulze).
This assembled team is Dom’s extended family and there are many references to the importance of family, whether related or extended. Dom and others talk about Sunday barbecues after church, watching out for one another, fatherhood, and strength of a family’s character. The racial make-up of this new extended family crosses all color lines as well. The film does nothing to address the racial component, nor should it. This family is what it is, which is a huge plus for an action narrative.
Another welcome sight in “Fast Five” is that the film portrays strong, smart female characters that are an intricate part of the team, not just eye candy. (This isn’t to say there isn’t feminine eye candy hanging out during the street racing scenes, but they seem so outrageous, that even Dom and Brian share a laugh at the scantily clad women.) It’s not just Mia and motorcyclist Gisele that are tough action femmes, there’s also female officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), an honest and tough rookie who’s assigned to Federal Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Hobbs is in Rio to catch the fugitives, Dom, Brian and Mia.
Not to worry, the political correctness doesn’t dilute the thrills for a second. “Fast Five” offers numerous shimmering cars and vividly shows off their machinery for the gear heads. There are also loads of exciting car chases and crashes, including one of the most thrilling, climatic, and craziest vault heist getaways seen on film. Lin and his production crew keep the racing imagery alive even in quieter moments with the subtitles racing across the screen as if the words themselves are part of the competition.
It’s a fun, revved-up, popcorn-fueled film that plays extremely well to all audiences. Let’s hope that the rest of the summer’s sequels will live up to Justin Lin and his “Fast Five.”
“Fast Five” is Rated PG-13 and is 130 minutes.