Theatrical Review: FAST FIVE
Writer: Chris Morgan
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Gal Gadot
Forget THOR, the summer movie season has started with the release of FAST FIVE. This is everything you would look for in a summer movie blockbuster: attractive people doing attractive things, thrilling action sequences complete with fast, over-the-top car chases and a very light and broad storyline. And sure, you’ll get the cheesy dialogue, passable but not very good acting, and glaring plot holes but despite all of that, you’ll get a fantastic time at the movies. After all, this movie is meant to be fun and exciting and not a display of high art.
FAST FIVE is the fifth installment in the widely popular franchise, which started in 2001. At times, the series gets unfairly trashed for being mindless, ridiculous machine-go-boom type of filmmaking, and for the purposes of this review, you’d be completely correct, but really, this is one of the few movie series out there that actually gets better as each film is released.
Why is that? It started in 2006, when director Justin Lin took the reins of this thrilling series. Until then, the idea of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was sold solely on the hot cars and the thrilling drag races. Directors Rob Cohen and John Singleton wanted to make police procedurals that happened to take place in the world of street racing, but Lin changed that in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (the third in the series) by incorporating the drag races into the actual plot and making them the character’s motivations. He grounded the world in the simplicity and the culture of street racing. Since then, Lin has directed the rest of the series by adding in a genuine mythology, grounding it in a loose family drama, and making modern day Westerns, replacing cowboys and horses with drivers and high performance vehicles.
The story is not sophisticated at all, but it serves the setting of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS very well. It picks up where FAST AND FURIOUS (the fourth film in the series) leaves off. Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is bussed to prison and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner and Jordana Brewster’s Mia Toretto try to bust him out. The film is sold on the opening sequence and, my God, what a heart-stopping ride! But it was just a taste of the action to come. The old gang is back together again, this time in Rio de Janeiro, and the plot unfolds, as Joaquim de Almeide’s Jose Reyes, the big crime boss in Rio, wants to kill the duo for stealing his luxury cars, which contain important information regarding his empire.
At the same time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hobbs, a Federal Agent who is on hot pursuit of the escaped Dominic Toretto, hits the scene in Rio. This is arguably the most plot-heavy film in the series, which doesn’t bode well for the plot holes that follow. A film that would seem like a game of cat and mouse quickly turns into an exciting heist film when Dominic decides he wants bringing down Reyes’ evil empire by robbing his strongholds. To do so, Toretto and O’Conner assemble an OCEAN’S 11-type gang of old favorites from the previous FAST AND THE FURIOUS films.
Amazingly, Lin manages to balance this ensemble cast very well. Focusing on Diesel or Johnson would probably satisfy a lesser filmmakers, but Lin makes it work. Everyone has a good scene presence and it doesn’t feel like the leads are overshadowing anyone. We get the witty charms of Tyrese Gibson, the smart mouth of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, the smart and sexy Gal Gadot, and the show-stealing Sung Kang as Han. Involving the character of Han, a favorite from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, has brought the series a likable charm somewhat like what Bernie Mac gave in his performances in the OCEAN’S movies, at the same time injecting the grounded reality of Lin’s first film BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, in which Han is also a character.
Obviously, the big takeaway from this movie is the action, which there is plenty of. From a brutal fist fight between Diesel and Johnson, which begs the question, why isn’t Dwayne Johnson in more action movies, to an extremely exhilarating 20 minute car chase sequence that gets more and more exciting as each minute passes. By the end of the film, I was even more excited than I thought I would be for a sequel. FURIOUS SIX is the next logical conclusion and it has to be made! There are not too many series out there that will make you clamor for more. Justin Lin is quickly becoming one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood who understands action, pacing, and general audiences. Wow! What a movie! The 2011 summer movie season has officially begun, in my book.
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