Director Justin Lin has not set out to create landmark cinema. He knows what the audience wants, and he gives it to them.
Although it has some pretty intense action sequences and enough testosterone for an entire army, Fast Five, the latest installment of the The Fast and the Furious franchise, amounts to little more than a mash-up of Ocean’s 11 and The Italian Job (the remakes in both cases, of course). But is this a bad thing? If the audience’s cheers at the screening I attended are any indication, then no. Director Justin Lin, who has helmed the franchise since the ill-advised The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has not set out to create landmark cinema. He knows what the audience wants, and he gives it to them.
Picking up where the last film left off, Fast Five opens with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) staging a high-speed interception to spring Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) from the prison bus that is transporting him to begin serving a 25-years-to-life sentence. The three go on the run, but soon meet up again in Rio de Janeiro to do one last job that will supply them with enough money to gain their freedom.
They assemble a team (made up of characters from the previous movies) to help pull off a $100 million heist, but they are facing two big problems. First, they are trying to steal money from Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a corrupt businessman/drug lord who ruthlessly runs Rio de Janeiro. Secondly, they must elude federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team who descend upon the city to capture Brian, Dom, and their crew.
Fast Five stumbles at the outset with a ridiculously absurd stunt on a train. However, the movie regains its footing and gets slightly better after that. Lin knows how to stage a car chase or foot race, so the action scenes are definitely inventive and entertaining. Plus, the film’s climactic sequence is admittedly pretty cool. Is it at all realistic or plausible? Hell no, but that’s not why we watch these movies.
Diesel, who is usually a fun actor to watch, is a little over-the-top this time and seems to be trying too hard to “act.” However, the addition of Johnson is more than welcome because of the charisma he constantly exudes no matter how bad his dialogue is (and there is some bad dialogue in this movie). One of the biggest payoffs of the movie is a fight between Dom and Hobbs that rivals the Uma Thurman/Daryl Hannah trailer fight in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 as the most badass in recent years.
As the movie’s villain, Reyes, de Almeida is decent and quite believable, if a little too intense. Of course, most avid movie watchers will still remember him as Bucho in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado and have a hard time seeing him as anyone else. The rest of the cast is barely noticeable and deserves little attention here; an actor’s piece this is not.
Fans of the franchise will likely enjoy Fast Five because of the constant action and quick pacing. Anyone going in to this movie for anything else will be sorely disappointed. | Matthew F. Newlin