REVIEW: Fast Five [2011]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 130 minutes | Release Date: April 29th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Justin Lin
Writer(s): Chris Morgan / Gary Scott Thompson (characters)

“Running ain’t freedom—you should know that”

If your city’s government finds a request to hold the twenty-year anniversary for The Fast and the Furious reunion, ask Rio de Janeiro how the tenth turned out. A rogue’s gallery of almost every cast member to get behind a car in the series, Fast Five lays it all out on the line by destroying miles of road, a bank’s lobby, and an entire fleet of cars with policía lettered on their side, all while over-using the Statue of Christ the Redeemer for each attempt at an expository shot. Let’s just say the bill will be high Monaco, so politely refuse. Yes, even if Vin Diesel knocks on your door for a face-to-face. Heck, for all we know he may just walk away from the franchise a second time, once again thinking his meathead performance will write his ticket to fame, fortune, and financing for his Hannibal passion project. However, while your city may not fare well, the public will lend their signatures to a petition for the opportunity, especially if the script resembles a bona fide story like this entry. The acting is sub par, along with the dialogue, but damn was it not entertaining.

Call this thing Ocean’s From da Street if you have to because, while I haven’t seen the middle three installments, this baby has some more weight to it than just fast cars, hot girls, and abnormally muscled men. Justin Lin (director) and Chris Morgan (writer) have outdone themselves, fashioning an intriguing heist flick to the existing character base and making it work within the campy world possessed of laughable physics an insane number of people lap up with pleasure every time they hear a VROOOM shoot left to right through the theatre surround sound. It starts with Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker)—the latter two just breaking the former out of the clink—on the run and looking to hit the shores of a country without extradition. Thanks to old buddy Vince (Matt Schulze), the crew decides to work an ‘easy’ job that wraps them up into a massive underworld led by Rio’s crime boss Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). With Reyes’s right hand man Zizi (Michael Irby) framing the boys, American Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) arrives with his clean up crew to scoop them up and prosecute to the fullest.

And by prosecute, I mean put a bullet in their heads. Hobbs is not messing around and he never misses. Using whatever force necessary, he and his team look to light Rio up and collect the men who have landed on his desk. Needing some form of local law enforcement, he recruits Elena (Elsa Pataky) to help, a rookie whose husband died on the job, a woman with nothing to lose, and the only policía who cannot be bought. Johnson plays the badass well, especially when he allows himself a touch of humanity rather than the machine-like movements of his previous actioner, Faster. This is a formidable foe for Diesel and company, a guy who is actually bigger than the antihero at the center of it all, leading up to an invigorating sequence of man-to-man fisticuffs with both men leaping into each other for extra force and a Street Fighter-like appeal. It’s a cat and mouse chase to counter the other between Toretto’s team and Reyes’s money, one with inevitable ends to keep the Fast and Furious theme of the gray area between both sides of the law intact.

But while this new dual format plot has characters running around the rooftops of Rio instead of driving high-octane engines, the appeal the previous entries had may be gone for the diehard fans. The change is a step up in my opinion since I could care less about the automobiles gracing the screen—mostly stationary for product placement than any kinetic maneuvering since only one drag race is shown while the rest are surprisingly cut to advance the plot. Unfortunately, though, I think that’s why most people go to see a film like this, they want to feel the pulsations of the steel as it contorts towards a finish line. They also want to see sexy women and, although Pataky in a tank top is very nice, you warm-blooded males will be disappointed in that arena too—as will the ladies since Vin and company somehow manage to keep their shirts on for the duration. But then people love the Ocean’s movies too, so I don’t see Fast Five failing at the box office since it creates a nice hybrid of the two. It’s tricky ensemble thievery with a high body count … yummy.

While the drag strips are few, a climatic chase full of speed and destruction will make up, causing you to wonder when exactly society decided it was worth 100 million dollars to decimate property and depict police officers simply looking at the mess, smiling knowingly as taxpayers foot the bill. It’s a scene that helps keep Diesel and Walker from talking, though—their stern, constipated looks of determination being their strong suits anyway—while the rest get to fly free and spice in some comic relief. At the very least, you will be entertained by this comedy, making up for the lack of cars saddening you. From Sung Kang’s Han and Gal Gadot’s Gisele cultivating a sexual spark to Tego Calderon’s Leo and Don Omar’s Santos—both performers on the soundtrack from Tokyo Drift before becoming actors in the series—engaging in Spanglished arguments to Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges’s Tej owning each frame they are a part of, the insane 130-minute runtime actually goes by with few lulls. Who knew the series could actually trend up to include a film I wouldn’t mind seeing again?

[1] (L to R) Brian O’Conner (PAUL WALKER), Mia Toretto (JORDANA BREWSTER) and Dom Toretto (VIN DIESEL) in a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the explosive franchise built on speed–“Fast Five”. Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] Luke Hobbs (DWAYNE JOHNSON) and Elena (ELSA PATAKY) in the action-thriller that’s a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the explosive franchise built on speed–“Fast Five”. Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[3] Gal Gadot stars as Gisele Harabo and Sung Kang stars as Han in Universal Pictures’ Fast Five (2011)

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