Monday, May 2, 2011

"Fast Five"

Fast Five - Directed by Justin Lin, written by Chris Morgan, starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne Johnson - Rated PG-13

Bring on five more...?

The Fast/Furious franchise is one of the most unlikely properties to still be up and running…and stronger than ever. The first one was fun in an idiotic, Point Break with cars kind of way. The second one was just sort of there. The third was a failed attempt to reboot the series in Tokyo. The fourth one worked in a nostalgic sense because it reunited the original cast. What is the point of a fifth movie? And once there’s a fifth film, isn’t a series entering parody territory? Not necessarily.

Fast Five works because the series has changed into this hybrid of a car movie and a heist movie a la Ocean’s 11. That may seem like a bad fit or even a goofy one, but it ends up being plenty of fun. Part of that is the cast, which consists of pretty much every character from past films (save the ones that died), but the bigger part is the ambition of the film. Who would have thought that one of the most over the top, entertaining action movies in recent memory would be Fast Five?

All surprise aside, Fast Five delivers exactly what its audience wants. First off, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are back, along with Jordana Brewster. Those familiar faces instantly make you recall the first film, which most fans consider to be the best. The addition of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be enough to excite the action fan in you if you’re not a fan of the original cast.

The story of Fast Five plays out in Rio. Dom, Brian, and Mia are on the lam after busting Dom out of federal custody. While in Brazil, they figure if they steal enough money from the local drug czar then they can disappear forever. To steal all of the money the trio needs the help of pretty much everyone they’ve ever dealt with before. Since the gang is so high profile, the FBI has sent in their heavy hitter, Hobbs (Johnson), to bring them all in.

Fast Five is all about going bigger. The film begins with a ridiculous action set piece and never lets up. Vehicles slam into speeding trains. Super-expensive cars fly out of said train only to then drive right off a cliff. That vague description only covers the first twenty minutes or so. Fast Five is nothing if not relentless, in a good way. The movie, though clocking in a bit long at two plus hours, manages to move at a brisk pace, never slowing down long enough for you to start questioning the logic of anything happening onscreen.

Logic doesn’t apply to this film. That’s not a problem. If the film had been filled with CG action scenes, it would have been a harder pill to swallow. But thankfully, Fast Five keeps most of its action practical…or at least it looks practical and that’s all that matters. In a movie about cars, you want to see real cars in the middle of real stunts. Fast Five certainly delivers on that point.

The non-automobile action is decent, as well. A major draw for this film was the showdown between the two hulking bald dudes: Johnson and Diesel. Johnson dwarfs Diesel and makes him look like a child, by the way. It’s still a pretty good matchup and their fight scenes play out like something out of a Godzilla movie.

Dwayne Johnson is a perfect fit for a movie like this. He gets to tell people what to do, stare people down, wear Under Armor, and sweat profusely, all while sporting a massive goatee. In other words, he gets to play The Rock…with a goatee. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a little something wrong with that Southern accent he threw in a few times, but it’s forgivable. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare so well. Paul Walker is still the weak link of the series. He’s okay in the action scenes, but when he has to play a person with emotions or a personality he fails more often than not. Diesel holds most of the film together with his odd…charisma? But the guy still mumbles most of his lines and looks painfully awkward in the lighthearted scenes. Fortunately, the rest of the cast handles the comedic relief. Some of it is a bit lowbrow (literally toilet humor at one point), but it’s all in good fun.

It’s a bit odd to claim enjoyment for a film with a “five” in the title, but you shouldn’t judge a movie by its title. Sure, this movie looks like a Dodge commercial at times, but isn’t product placement warranted in a car movie? Are the two leads mediocre? Yeah, but they have developed some odd kind of chemistry that works. Should you ask any of these questions about Fast Five? Nope. Check it out for a crazy good time.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

How many people were killed in that vault sequence? Sure, they went to a lot of trouble to show everyone getting out of the way just in time, but there must have been scores of innocent people who were killed...and all for the greed of Vin Diesel and his cronies.

It's a good thing Brazil has all those superfast, cool cop cars…

The whole movie is a bit ridiculous, but the most unrealistic aspect: Vin Diesel kicking The Rock's ass. C'mon! (That last word is in italics to show that it should read as if Gob Bluth is saying it.)

One thing that put on the positive side for the last Fast movie was the fact that they killed off Michelle Rodriguez, whose character annoyed me to no end. Then, in an after credits sequence, it's revealed that she's actually still alive somehow...

...I instantly dislike the next one now.

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