According to it’s trailers, Fast Five proclaimed that “Summer Begins” (or began) with it’s release over the past weekend. If it’s any indication of how the summer is going to be, we’re in for one hell of a ride as Fast Five is big, dumb, loud and tons of fun.
Picking up right where Fast & Furious left off, Brian O’Connor and Mia Toretto bust Dom Toretto out of the prison bus he’s on and head for Rio De Janiero where their old buddy Vince has settled down with a wife and kid. He’s still in the crime game though and recruits the trio for a job stealing cars from a train with some of local crime boss Reyes’ men. The job goes south and Dom and co. are wanted for the deaths of three DEA agents, which results in Diplomatic Security Services agent Hobbs being sent to Rio to track the trio down by any means necessary. Despite the heat from Hobbs, the trio decides to pull off a daring heist of all of Reyes’ money after they find a computer chip in one of the stolen cars with information on all his money houses. A job that big requires that they pull in the best of the best from their various contacts and so all your favorite characters from the previous Fast & Furious movies arrive in Rio for a $100 million heist.
When director Justin Lin came on board the franchise with Tokyo Drift, he brought an awareness that the movies were dumb but fun and he’s run with that for the subsequent movies. Fast Five sets the bar ridiculously high in terms of insane action sequences, from the opening train robbery to the *spoilers* climactic final chase where Dom and Brian are dragging a massive vault safe behind their cars, using it as a weapon against the cops chasing them and smashing it through all manner of buildings, trees and lamposts. Everything about the action sequences is turned up to 11, for instance, in the opening train robbery, it’s not enough to just drive the cars off the train, they have to rip off the side wall and use their custom built buggy to pull them off and launch them. I also love the fact that Lin realizes that the series is so far removed from it’s street racing Point Break roots that when you think the obligatory street race sequence is going to happen, they just cut to Brian and Dom returning to HQ with the car they won. Lin is no slouch when it comes to non car related action sequences as well, there’s a great foot chase through the favela that is straight out of Modern Warfare 2 and an insanely awesome fight scene between Vin Diesel and The Rock that sees the two goliaths smashing through tables, walls and anything else that gets in their way.
Speaking of The Rock, he steals the movie as Hobbs. He knows exactly what kind of movie is going on and turns up the bad assery and scenery chewing. If “Faster” was The Rock re-testing the action movie waters after his string of family movies, Fast Five is him doing a cannonball off the high dive. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are doing pretty much what you expect them to be doing after three F&F movies while Jordana Brewster is kind of pushed to the background because she’s saddled with a pretty cliche pregnancy sub-plot. All the other F&F regulars are doing what you want them to be doing as well, Sung Kang is cool as ice as usual as Han and Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson bring the comedic relief. The one major change, definitely for the better, is Gal Gadot, Giselle from Fast & Furious. She really didn’t have a lot of personality in that movie other than being Vin Diesel’s love interest and being conflicted about working for the bad guy. In Fast Five they’ve transformed her into, straight up, Fiona from Burn Notice, and it’s great. The other two returning cast members, Leo and Santos from Fast & Furious, are pretty forgettable and their supposed comedic bickering gets old after a while. Rounding out the cast is Joaquim Almeida as bad guy Reyes and Elsa Pataky as police officer Elena.
If you’re fan of any of the Fast & Furious movies, Fast Five is a must see. It’s great, for the most part, seeing all these character back together and the addition of The Rock was a genius move. The news from Universal is that the Fast & Furious franchise is going to continue evolve into a heist movie series and, from what I saw in Fast Five, I am completely down with as long as they keep ratcheting up the insanity of the action and keep the main cast coming back. Summer 2011 is definitely off to a great start.
4.5 out of 5
(PS: Make sure you stay in the theater until after the animated credits sequence ends to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from Fast & Furious 6)