Slow Down … You’re Driving Like a Bat out of Hell! – A Film Review of “Fast Five”

Fast cars … hot chicks … exotic locations … Yup, I’m in.

10 years, 4 movies and countless destroyed cars later, Vin Diesel and crew are back to break speed limits, run stop signs and steal as much stuff as they can get their thieving hands on. Set after “Fast & Furious” (part 4) but before “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” (part 3) “Fast Five” goes old school and decides to bring what’s left of the band back together and rev new life into the franchises genre. Directed by Justin Lin, “Five” is a super charged engine of fun that just keeps hitting on all cylinders.

From the very beginning, the team is on the run. After a daring and death defying break-out of Dom (Diesel) by long-time adversary/friend Brian (Paul Walker) and sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), the trio get moved to the top of America’s most wanted list and decide to flee to lands better unknown. Making their way south into the big booty beaches of Brazil, they find an old friend, a new job and inherit a whole heap of trouble when the People’s Champion, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,  gets assigned to smack them down. After a major snag in plans, the team must find a way stay alive while making sure that the biggest baddie in Brazil (El Bucho himself Joaquim de Almeida) loses a major portion of his market share. Along the way, some more old familiar faces (Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gidot and more) are brought in to shift gears and take last years Ford Fusion and flip it into an “Italian Job.” (Sorry, for those of you don’t get the reference, see the “Italian Job.” The good one. Not the crappie Mark Wahlberg version … the real version.)

Changing the focus of the film from the basic getaway to heist movie is exactly what the franchise needed. While still completely ridiculous, unbelievable and (if you think about it too hard) laughably silly, blasting back some old cast members and adding a few more made for some surprisingly refreshing fun. Yes, it’s hard to believe that Diesel’s Dominic character is now a mastermind criminal able to defy the entire Federal Police force of multiple countries and go toe to toe with the Rock, but hey, whatever. I’ll take that ride. And, speaking of the Rock … damn this dude is fun to watch. As the hard ass, tough as nails, Hobbs, Johnson steals the show easily from everyone else making to hard for the future films of the franchise not to what to feature him more prominently. Coming up on close seconds are the before mentioned Ludacris and Gibson. Both positive leftovers from the hideously bad “Too Fast, Too Furious,” these two add some much needed comedy, quick wit and interesting character to what could have been an overly testosterone fueled crap fest.

Along with that, I have to say, the action in this film is excellent. Yeah I said it. Excellent. Bet you didn’t think someone would say that about one of these flicks, but there it is. Over the top, implausible and completely edge of your seat moments fuel this film and help keep it going through the finish line. Big explosions and some great stunt work give new depth to a franchise that has been pretty one dimensional in the past. I mean, let’s face it, save for a few interesting races, the past films were pretty tame. But, it looks like Lin has learned from past work and really developed some thrilling action that truly engages the audience. Plus, while shot way too close for my liking, there is an all out brawl between Diesel and Johnson that makes you drool for more.

Of course, not everything is all gold spinners and NOS. “Five” is just too long. Scenes seem to go and go and I’m not sure why, but Lin chooses to show us sweeping shots of Rio and it’s iconic favelas and city monuments multiple times throughout the film. I mean come on. You show us the Cristo Redentor statue once, we get it. “Oh, they are in Rio de Janeiro.” Got it. Show it five times as part of transitional montage in two hours … you’re just wasting time. Snip snip my friend. At the same time, geez there a lot of characters in the film. It’s clear that “Ocean’s 11” is a reference point and inspiration for the film, but there’s no need to cast that same number of people. Sure, all the characters some how stay relevant and do something in the grand scheme of things, but in the end, simplifying it down a little more would have made something decent, much better. Also, while it is a little fun, the League of Extraordinary Criminals thing does get dangerously close to being stupid especially when suddenly, a team that was starving for money one moment is swimming in high-tech gear and state-of-the-art vault breaking tools. Just saying.

Overall, regardless of what you think, the “Fast” franchise is successful because they know their audience and they know what the people want. Ridiculous at times, unbelievable for most of it, but 100 percent fun make this entry worth it for fans of the films. By bringing back some of the best characters from past episodes and adding the right modifications, the filmmakers have tricked out this ride for maximum appeal. Fast cars, hot chicks and bulging biceps are just the surface for the fun you’ll have at the theater with this one. Will it win any awards … nope. But it will be a great diversion for friends to enjoy together. So, start your engines, strap on that seat belt and step on it to a theater near you.

Oh and before I head out … stick around through the credits. Longtime fans will be rewarded with clues for what’s next for the Furious franchise.

3.5 out 5 Ten second cars

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