Fast cars – check. Beautiful girls – check. Blatant disregard for reality – check. Every element essential for a Fast and the Furious film is present in Fast Five, and in typical sequel form, an attempt to outdo the predecessor also takes priority. Here the solution manifests itself as an increase in both violence and the outlandishness of the car stunts, plus the inclusion of an Ocean’s 11-style heist and Dwayne Johnson’s cocky federal agent Hobbs. The escapism works thanks to diminished expectations and clever creators attuned to the desires of the fans, though no matter how massive the car crashes, thrilling the shootouts, or truncated the title, it’s still just another mindless addition to the Fast and the Furious franchise.
After a harrowing prison bus escape, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), and Mia Toretto (Jordanna Brewster) flee to Rio de Janeiro where it’s not long before they’re involved in yet another theft of high-end race cars (yes, the protagonists are all wanted criminals). When the job goes south and three DEA agents are killed, the trio find themselves hunted by both a ruthless drug kingpin (Joaquim de Almeida) and a hard-boiled federal agent (Dwayne Johnson). With their options dwindling and time running out, Dominic and Brian gather together a crew of elite outlaws including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), and Gisele (Gal Gadot) to stage a heist against the criminal overlord worth $100 million.
Dwayne Johnson gets the only “F” word in Fast Five, blatantly spouting it out in a macho frenzy. It’s fitting that he’s given all the funniest bits of dialogue, since he’s the only actor having a genuinely grand time. “The Rock” thinks he’s in a comedy, while everyone else believes the situations are serious, life or death, and teeth-gritting intense. He eats up every scene he’s in, and aids in chewing up the scenery with massive firepower. And since the PG-13 language barrier is reached, the violence must be toned down, ensuring that during the opening moments, in which a bus flips over a dozen times and is smashed beyond recognition, a news reporter chronicles how, quite surprisingly, none of the 30-some inmates on board were killed.
From here we’re granted all the basic components of a Fast and the Furious movie, from amplified revving engines, to dust-churning/asphalt-burning tires, to close-ups of lift kits and snarling wheels, to street racing, to bare midriffs. Tied into the generic formula is the new, incredibly complex heist scheme, along with the corrupt Brazilian official and his obligatory moments of demonstrating his evilness, especially toward his henchmen. With all the attention given to cool cars, sexy bodies and action-packed chase sequences, it’s hilarious that we’re supposed to care about the characters, all of whom are invincible in the line of fire, but down-to-earth when they speak of the past, lost loved ones, family bonds, running from the law and present relationships.
Fast Five uses a lot of subtitles and introduces a stylish method to deliver them (they slide off the screen like a speeding vehicle). And while it’s preoccupied with maintaining an edgy, modern look, it forgets to provide explanations about where everyone obtained the farcical amounts of money and technology necessary to plan the heist, why Rio completely runs out of cops during the finale, why no one reports all the stolen police cars, or what the backstory is for any of the characters, most of whom were in the previous four films (not that it matters what exactly happened in the other movies). What is quite entertaining, however, is the large amount of shootouts, fistfights, explosions, stunts, and massive destruction involved in all of the catastrophic action scenes, which mind-bogglingly mix stunt driving with CG racecars to create a believably hellacious, highly frenetic visual assault of crumpled metal and flame-spewing tailpipes. Stay through the end of the credits for an extra scene that guarantees a Fast and the Furious Part 6 (our bet is on the title “Furious Six”).
– The Massie Twins (http://GoneWithTheTwins.com)