Review: 'Fast Five' is a Furious Start to the Summer's Entertainment
by Jeremy Kirk
April 29, 2011
Let's just get the engines started. Fast Five is the best film of the Fast and the Furious series. That's actually saying something when you consider the history of fifth installments in established franchises. I'm not going to go through a list, good or bad, but outside of Empire Strikes Back - yes, I know it was really the second Star Wars movie, but I'm making a point here - and Order of the Phoenix, film series have usually gone to scraping the creative barrel by the time the fifth movie comes along. Not so with Fast Five, a non-stop fusion of quick chases, splashy characters, and cracking action set pieces that officially stamps the Summer movie season as open. Sure, said stamp might be a bit plasticized and CGed over, but it hits with style and velocity not previously seen on this level in this franchise.
Fast Five once again teams Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as fast-moving thieves Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Conner, respectively. After breaking Dom out of a prison transport - an opening that carries over straight from the end of Fast and Furious - the team, along with Dom's sister, Mia, played by Jordanna Brewster, goes to Rio where the score of a lifetime awaits. Pulling together a team comprised of various characters from the previous Fast and the Furious movies, they are now going after $100 million of a shady businessman's life savings. It'll be dangerous, and on top of the the challenge laying before them, a federal task force led by Agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, is hot on their tail.
Clearly director Justin Lin is not new to this franchise. Fast Five is the third film of the series he has directed, and while he delivered the extremely fast Tokyo Drift, he runs in a different direction with Fast Five making every action scene as furious as possible. Fast Five has some incredible set pieces, and they begin right at the start. That opening break-out scene is simple, quick, but its usage of action design, sound, and a solid utilization of effects both practical and CG sets the tone for the fever that's about to come.
It isn't like the Fast and the Furious movies are bereft of typical bang-bang-shoot-em-up action, either. Aside from Tokyo Drift, they aren't just about street racing. Each of them has a nice mixture of racing and gun-play regardless of how those were individually executed each time out. Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan aren't interested in toying with the street racing any more. Instead, they load this new movie down with huge explosions, lots of fists meeting faces, and even more bullets hitting bodies. One scene that even teases a street race doesn't even go through the pains of actually showing it. We know what the result will be. Why spend 10 minutes of pointless racing when the suspense can't possibly be present? And what's way more important than all of that, the action Lin and Morgan do include in Fast Five is all presented in an exciting, entertaining, and unforgettable way.
But all that action would be null and void without the characters. Thankfully they understand this, too. They do their best to build the relationships between members of the team especially Dom and Brian, who are fully on the same side for the first time in the franchise's history. Never mind that Diesel and Walker haven't ever found their thespian ways. The characters' bond is strong enough to overcome any histrionic issues we may have in the casting. Bringing characters from past films back in to make up the team was a great idea, too. These are characters we know even if we don't exactly love them. Even so, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris - neither of whom have been seen since 2 Fast 2 Furious - offer up much of Fast Five's comic relief. Whether it's effective, genuine, or neither, it's still a welcome change of pace from the intensity brought down by the movie's barrage of action scenes.
Johnson is a nice addition to the series, too. He gives the Hobbs character a level of sincerity as well as celebrity clout that makes it easy to see the movie from his side of the action. This isn't a throw-away character put in the mix just because you have to include some idea of law enforcement. He brings something extra to the entire film. While a spin-off probably wouldn't work - I'm just going by law of averages as far as spin-offs go - there are definitely worse ideas the Hollywood machine could come up with.
Loaded down with enough blazing action to fill a Summer blockbuster, Fast Five is the Fast and the Furious movie action fans have been frothing for for years. The cars are there. The races are there. One particular chase scene late in the film brings incredible originality and a stunning execution to the climax of a film that has already delivered oodles of hard-hitting and top-notch action. It's a culmination to a series that has had ups and downs, but it finally feels like the Fast and the Furious series has reached its peak. And while a post-credit sequence delivers up the perfect launching point for a FuriouSix, we can only hope it's Justin Lin at the driver's seat once again.
Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10