The Fast and the Furious franchise has lasted this long because it’s all based on a simple premise. People enjoy watching fast cars zoom around on screen. Oh, and they occasionally blow up. As we all know frequent explosions really set the tone for the summer movie season.
Fast Five teams up all of the old characters. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) returns as an exiled FBI agent who has just helped free Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) from prison. They head down to Rio to lay low. However, they didn’t really count on the FBI sending in Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to hunt them down.
The movie makes the mistake of thinking that we care more about these characters than the ingenious car chases they’ve thought up for this movie. Much of the time is spent dissecting their uninteresting past. Brian opines about how his dad was never there, and what kind of dad he’ll end up being. Mia (Jordana Brewster) is pregnant, which is just another silly subplot that goes nowhere. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but in a Fast and the Furious movie, I want less forced characterization and more cars going boom!
Dominic and Brian soon find out that where they are in Rio is run by a Brazilian Scarface wannabe. Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, who always seems to be stuck playing the Latin bad guy in movies) is his name, and oppressing the poor is his game. He has cash houses all over Rio where he stashes his illegally obtained money in order to keep it off the books so to speak. After a botched car robbery on a train, which is pretty spectacular in its own right, Dominic and Brian find a computer chip containing the whereabouts of every one of Reyes’ cash houses. In one fell swoop the movie transforms into a hip-hop version of Ocean’s 11. They don’t have the swagger and charisma as Clooney and the gang, but this rag-tag bunch of street racers has all of a sudden adapted. They are suddenly computer geniuses with unlimited cash flow. They mock up training courses like in ‘The Italian Job’, in order to make sure everything goes according to plan.
Director Justin Lin and his editors follow the tired editing cliché in modern day action movies where no shot should last longer than a second. Hand-to-hand combat scenes, especially a brutal beating between Dominic and Hobbs, are almost impossible to tell who is who. The camera swings around violently and the editing is lightning quick. This gives off the semblance that something really crazy is happening.
At 130 minutes long, the middle of Fast Five drags, and it soon becomes apparent that much of what they practiced in their warehouse was completely useless anyway. Enough about the plot. The plot only serves one purpose, and that purpose is to move us from one action set-piece to another, culminating in a car chase that revels in the destruction of public property. That’s what we came to Fast Five to see.
Fast Five entertains on a summer movie season level. It may, at times, try too hard to get us to care about its wooden characters, but at least it tries. All we really want to see is fast cars and get an idea what its multi-million dollar budget paid for. In that aspect Fast Five succeeds. It’s a horsepower, testosterone fueled thrill ride. With summer action movies right around the corner, I don’t think we’d have it any other way.