Fast Five has two major elements in its favor. One, it's better than you think, especially considering this is the fifth film in The Fast and the Furious franchise. And two, it provides the most inventive car chase sequence in recent memory. We're talking a smash-em up through the crowded streets of Rio de Janeiro, with two souped-up black mustangs towing a several-ton steel bank vault loaded with cash.
Just don't think about that sequence -- or the rest of the film -- too much and you'll be fine.
The movie picks up where 2009's Fast & Furious, ended: a daring rescue of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) on a prison bus loaded with other inmates.
Dominic was convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to more than two decades in prison without eligibility of parole. Naturally, his friend and former cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) aim to make sure Dominic never sees the inside of his jail cell.
Their daring and utterly preposterous rescue of Dominic, in which they cause the bus he's in to crash at a high rate of speed and roll over several times, shedding metal in the process -- naturally, no one is hurt -- sets the tone and template for the illogical mayhem to come.
Directed by Justin Lin. Screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on the characters created by Gary Scott Thompson. A Universal Pictures release, opening Friday at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Fox Theatre, and Sundance Kid Drive-In. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content, and language. Running time: 130 minutes.
Critic's rating: * * *
Dominic Toretto .......... Vin Diesel
Brian O'Conner .......... Paul Walker
Hobbs .......... Dwayne Johnson
***** Outstanding; **** Very Good; *** Good; ** Fair; * Poor.
Better still is their brazen heist of a trio of expensive sports cars on a speeding train with several DEA agents onboard. Things don't go as planned in the theft, and Dominic and Brian find themselves duped by gun-toting minions from Rio's resident crime lord, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). The thugs gun down the DEA agents, but it's Dominic and Brian who are blamed for their murders. Now with a huge price on their heads, the feds call up super agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, doing his best Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive) to track them down.
But Dominic concocts a grand scheme of revenge against Reyes, one that will secure his and Brian's financial futures. To pull it off, though, he assembles the obligatory crack team of renegades, each with a special skill, quirky personality, and sardonic wit. The only thing standing in their way of a wealthy retirement is Reyes, a corrupt Rio police force, and Hobbs and his men.
The cat-and-mouse game between Dominic, Hobbs, and Reyes grows tiresome by the film's third act. That, along with some unnecessary subplot romances, needlessly extend Fast Five to two hours -- or, about a half-hour longer than the film should be. This is an instance when more is less. But once the final caper is on and the high-speed chase commences, Fast Five kicks it into another gear and delivers some serious thrills.
The actors are serviceable. Vin Diesel might be the best of the acting lot, which is not saying much. Johnson, the biggest -- literally and figuratively -- addition to the cast is mostly lost here. He sweats. A lot. And barks orders at his muscle-bound team of experts. But he doesn't know how to deliver a corny line -- which is just about everything his character says -- with any sense of irony. So Johnson tries to play it straight, which is beyond his range. Ludacris, as one of the Dominic's expert crew members, Tej, has some funny lines as does Tyrese Gibson as Roman, another hired gun.
But, let's be honest: No one comes to a Fast and the Furious film for the acting and smart script. (And they won't be disappointed with this.)
The real appeal to this movie, as with the previous installments, is the car chases and Fast Five delivers on that promise. The destruction of Rio's streets, cars -- police and civilian -- and even buildings stretches credibility almost to the point of breaking, but it's also undeniably fun.
Director Justin Lin, who directed Fast & Furious as well as 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, can stage a car chase sequence with the best of them. Give credit to he and screenwriter Chris Morgan (who also scripted Fast & Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) for coming up with a new twist to the big blowout chase orgy.
Watching the massive steel safe smash through cars and other obstacles, wreaking havoc along the way, is visually impressive. Even more impressive, if there was a CG element to any of it, I couldn't spot it.
Fast Five is a fun time at the movies. It helps if you can suspend your disbelief, sense of logic, and probably some minor laws of physics, and just ride with this as best you can. Fast Five is better that way.
As for part six in the film series, make sure you stay through the final credits.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.