***1/2 (out of 5)
April 29, 2011
Vin Diesel as DOMINIC TORETTO
Paul Walker as BRIAN O’CONNER
Dwayne Johnson as HOBBS
Jordana Brewster as MIA
Tyrese Gibson as ROMAN
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as TEJ
Matt Schulze as VINCE
Sung Kang as HAN
Gal Gadot as GISELE
Directed by: Justin Lin
BY KEVIN CARR
I’ve never been much of a car nut. Nor have I been much for a testosterone-fueled B.S. nut. Consequently, when the original “The Fast and the Furious” hit theaters nearly ten years ago, I wasn’t all that excited to see it. I wasn’t reviewing films then, so I missed the movie in the theaters.
I didn’t actually see “The Fast and the Furious” until two years ago when I rented that and its sequel to prep for the then-pending “Fast and Furious” (the fourth film in the series). I thought it was just okay. It wasn’t great. The story and characters were at a “Point Break” level of ‘roid rage intensity. But the racing scenes were pretty cool to watch.
Then came the sequels. “2 Fast 2 Furious” was a huge step down, replacing hulking but charming Vin Diesel with the not-so-hulking and way-less-charming Tyrese Gibson. I had skipped “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift” two years ago, but I caught it just a week ago to complete the series. That installment was even worse. I blame Lucas Black.
“Fast and Furious” was pretty stupid as well, not really capturing my attention. It was nice to see Vin Diesel return, but the action sequences didn’t quite counterbalance the ridiculous and silly plot or the two-dimensional, snorting characters.
Now with “Fast Five,” the sequels have finally taken a step up. The two biggest changes that were made were stepping up the action to an insane level and bringing in The Rock as one of the antagonists, the government agent looking to bring Dominic Toretto and his gang to justice.
But don’t get me wrong. “Fast Five” is no work of art. It may be the best of the sequels and arguably better than the original, but it’s still just a dumb movie that has plenty of flaws.
In this installment, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and friends bust Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of prison by decimating his prison bus, miraculously leaving no one hurt. They high-tail it down to Rio de Janeiro for one last job… stealing $110 million from the biggest crime boss in the city. Meanwhile, inexplicably sweaty agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on their tail, trying to bring them back to the states to face the music.
The action in this movie is the key to what makes it fun. Like a Michael Bay film, where there’s explosions and cars crashing into other things, it’s at its best. Who cares about the plot, character, story or even physics at this point. If it looks cool on screen, it works.
Justin Lin has finally reached a stride with his work, showing us that he can, indeed, handle the action moments. The movie looks great, and it is bookended by two fantastic and thrilling chase sequences.
It’s the middle that has the problems. The film runs 130 minutes long, which isn’t necessary in the least. There’s a lot of padding with dopey characters and a plodding storyline. I’ve heard that fans of the series should like the return of multiple characters from previous films, notably Han (Sung Kang), who bites the dust in the third film (thus causing a chronology confusion as this and part four are actually prequels to “Tokyo Drift”).
Unfortunately, this gallery of supporting roles have never really been anything more than set dressing for me. It’s like the “Oceans Eleven” movies. You probably can’t name more than five or six of the eleven, twelve or thirteen off the top of your head.
Like the other films in the franchise, “Fast Five” is loaded with cool cars, high-octane action and hip-level shots of hot chicks in skimpy clothes at illegal street racing events. Is it a great film? Not at all. Is it fun? Sure. Is it the best action movie I’ve seen? Not by a long shot.
But “Fast Five” will invigorate the fans, and it will kick start the summer movie season. But like the “Twilight” movies, this will be as front-loaded as a NOS-charged hot rod engine… and it’ll burn out relatively quick.