Summer movie season usually starts the first week of May, but this year Fast Five is kicking things off a week early. Returning vets of the series Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Tyrese Gibson are joined by newcomer Dwayne Johnson for a car chase and heist movie that manages to be the fifth film in a franchise that somehow revitalized itself after a super-successful fourth entry. How good is the fifth film? Have a look…
- The Director: Justin Lin
- The Writer: Chris Morgan
- The Stars: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataky, Joaquim de Almeida
After breaking Dominic Toretto (Diesel) out of jail, ex-FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Walker) and his girlfriend Mia (Brewster) are on the lam, only to hide out in Rio where Dom’s brother Vince (Schulze) lives with his wife. Brian, Mia and Dominic take a job stealing a couple cars (off a moving train), which goes bad and gets the ire of Rio’s crime kingpin Reyes (de Almeida). The car they stole holds info on his holdings, so the three assemble a team of thieves and car people to steal a hundred million dollars from Reyes. But because of the car heist gone bad they’re being tracked by Hobbs (Johnson), a no-nonsense FBI agent who is not to be triffled with.
- This movie knows what it is: Though this franchise is baffling (how it survived it’s first two sequels is impressive), it feels like all the previous films have been a rough draft to finally get to this movie. It takes cast members from the earlier sequels (some killed off in previous entries) and brings them together for an “assemble the team” movie that delivers laughs and thrills better than any of the Ocean’s Eleven movies, or the Italian Job remake.
- Practical Effects: When these cars are moving and crashing – though there’s definitely digital work to be found – for the most part you get the sense that you’re watching cars on streets interacting with each other. With car stunts movies that’s something that can’t be faked.
- The Cast: The assemblage of all these cast members gives the film a number of different voices that it doesn’t have to establish. Since backstory is the death of these movies, that everyone involved shows up and delivers a moment or a line or two that kills, you’re constantly entertained by the ensemble. And it doesn’t hurt that the cast is filled with attractive people. Though the leads are a couple years on, men like Tyrese Gibson and Sung Kang have a sexy cool about them, while Gal Gadot and Elsa Pataky give the film some compentent acting and eye candy. That said, if someone walks away with this movie it’s…
- Dwayne Johnson: As a film star, there’s been few roles that have given him as much fun things to do as this movie. He gets to bark orders, and do a riff on Tommy Lee Jones’s character in The Fugitive (which was a riff on Les Misérables‘ Javert), when the third act kicks in he gets to deliver some of the film’s best moments both as a character, and as a person who puts foot to ass.
- Takes a while to get going: Though the opening is absurd in the right way, the film has a couple of opening it has to get through, from getting Dominic out of prison, establishing Rio, getting the gang in trouble with Reyes, establishing Johnson’s character and then assembling a team. But this also works for the film, as it builds to a great third act where the film is firing on all cylinders. It just takes a little for the film to settle in.
- Nothing, if you accept that this is a summer film: Look, there’s nothing all the deep going on in this film, there’s no subtext (not even the barely concealed homoeroticism of the second film), and everything is cartoonish and stupid. That said, it’s the right kind of cartoonish and stupid. It delivers, it delivers in a way that most big event films don’t. This is a full combo meal of junk food that manages to satisfy all cravings for what a good trashy film should be.
If someone told me that it would take five movies to make a great Fast and Furious film I would never believe them, but having seen Fast Five on Monday, I’m contemplating going back again this weekend. For whatever reason – however all the pieces came together – Justin Lin has managed to craft one of the most rousing, audience-pleasing, completely satisfying Summer films in a long, long time.
Fast Five hits theaters April 29. Seriously, check it out.