Movie Review: Fast Five

 In Movie Reviews

Against my better judgement, I headed out to the movie theater to see Fast Five this weekend. I prefer going during the week because there usually aren’t as many people, and I knew the theater would be packed for this film. What I always seem to forget though, is that the young people who are alive now don’t know a time without technology–cell phones, the internet, email–so they can’t remember a time when you actually had to sit for two hours without checking your phone incessantly. So they (and I shouldn’t stereotype here because I see just as many adults do it, too) see no problem with lighting up their little white screens four and five times during a film or even taking phone calls.

But enough of my stodgy complaining! The movie itself surprised me. It wasn’t terrible, even though that’s what I fully expected.

Fast Five picks up where the last movie left off, with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) headed off to jail with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her boyfriend, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) poised to bust him out. Good news: they probably saved a day of shooting and some cash by rehashing the footage from the last film.

Once free, the gang is back together and on the run in Rio (which might be a good subtitle: “Fast Five: On the Run in Rio“. Other subtitles could be: “Fast Five: Toretto’s Eleven” and “Fast Five: Doin’ It All for My Baby“.) and looking for some traveling money. Enter Vince (Matt Schulze), the overly hostile crew member from the original film who had a thing for Mia and whatever the opposite of a thing is for O’Conner (or, as he was known in that film: Spilner). He lives in Rio now with a wife and kid and knows the local car scene. He sets up a job and–surprise!–it goes wrong. This time it’s kind of weird though, because boosting cars from a DEA-protected train moving at high speed (which apparently isn’t too high, because a crappy 4×4 flatbed truck seems to easily keep pace with it as the theft is happening) seems like it couldn’t possibly encounter problems. And as you know, when a crime happens in South America, it is automatically headed by a drug kingpin who has the police in his pocket. So when the train robbery goes south, there’s hell to pay to a slick-haired man in a fancy suit who will kill one of his minions with a desk decoration at the drop of a hat when said minion delivers bad news instead of results.

It wasn’t the cars on the train that the DEA was protecting though; it was a stick of RAM (why not a USB flash drive?) in the stereo of the one car the thieves did manage to come away with. On that RAM is, you guessed it, everything the drug kingpin needs to keep his drug kingpinnery going. Upon discovering this, the F&F crew get that age-old idea that always makes for a compelling and complicated story: one last job. You see, Mia is pregnant and stealing all the drug guy’s cash could set her and her family up for good and they can stay on the run for as long as they need to.

Speaking of on the run, did I mention The Rock is some sort of U.S. agent who is chasing them with the tenacity of Jason Vorhees? He’s as big as I’ve ever seen him and, for some reason, the only person in the movie who sweats, even though it’s set in South America. Luckily, he sweats enough for everyone. He sweats like Robin Williams in the ’80s. I’m glad he was there though, because it added a subplot that I think was important not only in setting up what happens later on in the film when the conflict reaches a head, but also future Fast films.

With their one last job lined up, Toretto and O’Conner assemble a team filled with characters from throughout the franchise’s four other movies (and even more show up if you sit through the end credits!). This is where the movie switches from Gone in 60 Seconds to Ocean’s Eleven. Everyone (including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Sung Kang) meets in the obligatory warehouse, where they’ve managed to assemble a zillion dollars worth of technology almost overnight, even though they’re in a Rio ghetto. What ensues is a fast-paced heist of epic proportions. There are twists and turns, sleight of hand, and what really was a pretty unique final chase/escape scene. It wasn’t The French Connection or anything, but it was pretty darn good. Toretto and his crew, of course, pull it off in the end.

I pick on this movie, but only because I’ve been a sucker for this type of thing since I watched all of Stallone and Schwartzenegger’s films in the ’80s. So I’m poking fun at myself more than anything else. This was, by far, the best film in the Fast and Furious franchise, like it finally reached its potential. And it’s certainly not going to be the last one. These movies don’t try to be more than they are: a mindless good time. Hell, this movie made more in it’s opening weekend ($86 million) than any other April release in the history of cinema. So they must be doing something right. And I think if they keep the formula perfected like it was in Fast Five, there could be more sequels in this franchise than Saw and just about anything else combined.

If you want to forget about things for a whopping 130 minutes and get lost in a world of fast cars (oh, and you will drive home from the theater doing at least 90, guaranteed), mindless action and a little bit of so-so acting, go see Fast Five. It’s the best popcorn movie we’ve had so far this year.

The Fast Five trailer:

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