Film Review – Fast Five
In 2001, the original The Fast and The Furious film started a storyline involving an undercover cop and an ex-con and the unlikely friendship they formed. It also left the storyline open until 2009’s Fast and Furious reunited undercover-cop-turned-FBI-agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) with the criminal car jockey Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel). Now, in 2011, as Fast Five begins, anti-hero Toretto is on his way to prison when O’Connor—no longer a federal agent—and Toretto’s sister, Mia, break him out in transit. After that, O’Connor and Mia split their own way, moving country to country to avoid the feds. They eventually find their way to Brazil, where they are reunited with an old friend set to pull off a job to earn some money. Toretto shows up to help with the job, but things go bad, leaving the trio not only on the lam from the law but the local drug lord. To make things worse, the FBI. has decided to send out its top agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), to track them down, and Hobbs always gets his man. In order to escape, O’Connor and Toretto have to pull one last job and recruit people they’ve worked with on each of the previous films.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the Fast and Furious franchise, it definitely has a theme: the law isn’t necessarily good. In the first film, which takes its plot directly from the surfing, bank-heist film Point Break, Brian is torn between his loyalty to his job and his new friendship with Dom and Mia and their crew. He starts the film determined to take down the criminals he’s after, but when he finds out who they are his determination changes. In Fast and Furious, when the characters are reunited around a murder, once again Brian must eventually abandon the law’s embrace and succumb to outlaw means. Now, in Fast Five, Brian is on the run from the law, but before the film is over, the law who’s chasing him will reconsider their position on the aspect of these criminals. Hobbs, who always gets his man, comes to face the possibility he sometimes won’t, and maybe shouldn’t.
Fast Five is, for the most part, an over-the-top exercise in commercialism and excess. Some shots are so slick they recall an Axe Body Spray advertisement, or a Michael Bay film. The film takes excellent opportunities for car stunts and adds elements so far beyond the realm of possibility they induced laughter at the screening I attended. There is this one bad guy who’s so impervious to death it’s almost not funny.
Paul Walker’s performance is more subdued and less the “charming boyish Keanu Reeves” it was in the first film; his character is weathered by the sequels and thus takes life far more seriously. Vin Diesel does a solid job of being Vin Diesel, similar to Jordana Brewster, who always gives the same “I’m hot” face when she hits the accelerator. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson turns in the film’s most over-the-top performance, which oddly enough fits perfectly in director Justin Lin’s hyperbolic framework of a world. The film brings back Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Matt Shultz, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot, to name a few. For fans of this, the movie spends a lot of time tying off what happens to each character.
Clearly, where Fast Five succeeds the most is in its blatant disregard for physics. Blending live stunts with a lot of CGI, people survive insane car wrecks and falls from very high places, leap across Rio de Janeiro as if they’re Daredevil, and eventually cause so much property destruction in such a densely populated area that the body count alone has to be astronomic. Of course, in a movie that pairs the Rock with Vin Diesel, nothing stands quite as tall as Diesel vs. Rock. However, when their final moment is all said and done, you still can’t help but feel that in the wake of Rowdy Roddy Pipper and Keith David’s epic face-off in 1988’s They Live, everything’s just kind of chaff. That is not to say Diesel vs. Rock is not all the manliness you’d hope it to be; testosterone is hurled like the wrench Dom used to find himself in jail in the first place. And Dwayne Johnson provides many great moves, such as leaping off his back and throwing a face crushing punch all in the same movement (and shot, for that matter).
Where Fast Five suffers the most—beyond some atrocious dialogue clearly ripped from other films, such as: “He’s all New Testament, wrath of God shit”—at times is in the filming of the action scenes. Once again, hand-held shaky cam is favored, along with some insane quick cuts, but to the director’s credit there are moments like the battle between Dom and Hobbs where some great stunts are captured appropriately. While the film does employ characters from all four of the previous installments, it really feels, when put alongside The Fast and the Furious and Fast and Furious, like the third part of a trilogy. This is interesting, considering Sung Kang’s character, Han, first appeared in director Justin Lin’s film Better Luck Tomorrow, and his storyline is left in this film, in what appears to be a lead-off to the events of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
All in all, if you’re a fan of The Fast and The Furious series, then you will not be disappointed. It is the best of the sequels, in this writer’s humble opinion.
FINAL GRADE: B-