Thursday, April 28, 2011
Review: "Fast Five"
"Fast Five" pops the highest gear of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, beating all its predecessors in thrills and sheer watchability.
Of course, calling it the best of this lot is like singling out the tallest Pygmy. These movies are sheer silliness, improbable roadway mayhem interspersed with obligatory fistfights and gunplay, all coated with a noxious layer of adolescent macho posturing.
Still, give it props for (mostly) putting the brakes on the unpleasant stuff and hitting the accelerator on what the audience really wants, which is tons of crazy street action. Cars fly through the air, hurtle sideways and backwards at high speeds, and smash into each other at a prodigious rate.
I think of all the people who worked on this movie, the hardest job must've belonged to the guy in charge of procuring all the vehicles, because every day he had to send all these beautiful machines off to the set to be pulverized by director Justin Lin (who's helmed the last three "Furious" flicks).
Vin Diesel, after being absent for most of the second and third movies, is back as Dom Toretto, growly car thief/racer, who seems to invent chips to place on his burly shoulder. After being sprung from a prison bus by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and FBI agent-turned-partner Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), they head down to Rio de Janeiro to hide out, where they raise the hackles of local crime lord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).
As an added bonus, Dwayne Johnson is added to the cast as Hobbs, a super-badass federal agent sent south of the border to bring in the trio after they're wrongfully accused of killing some DEA guys. Personally, I prefer Johnson in snarly action mode to the cuddly kiddie pictures he's been mired in lately. When you resemble The Rock, that's a whole lot of whup-tush staying in the can.
Of course, the audience is being set up for a throw-down between Diesel and Johnson, and the bald behemoths finally oblige around the 75 minute mark. Two 250-pound guys wail on each other for five minutes solid, throwing one another through windows and walls, and by the next scene neither one of them bears so much as a welt.
I also found it curious that Hobbs' law enforcement sidekicks stand with machine guns trained while a suspect pummels their boss, and never do anything to intervene. There's got to be something in the manual about that.
At over two hours, the movie's way too long, and the screenplay (by Chris Morgan) is a structural mess. The entire middle of the film is spent assembling a team (including Tyrese Gibson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) to crack a vault in the much-hyped "impossible job" that every movie starring criminals seems to have.
After stealing cars, doing practice runs, stalking Reyes to get his hand print and myriad other schemes to beat a specific set of obstacles, it all gets tossed out the window for a last-minute case of "let's wing it." The payoff is a pretty spectacular sequence of CGI-assisted absurdity through the busy streets of Rio, but it sort of invalidates all the build-up.
I can't quite give the green light to "Fast Five," but any film franchise that's following an upward arc in its fifth go-round is welcome to rev it up again.
2.5 stars out of four