Reviewing movies like FAST FIVE, or any movie in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, is kind of a pointless act… as like the HARRY POTTER or even TWILIGHT films, their intended audience is going to see it no matter what you say. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I’ve only seen the first film and the third installment, FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOYKO DRIFT. I missed 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and FAST & FURIOUS (I’ve seen “sections” of them, but never watched them straight through). Oddly enough, after talking to some of the hardcore fans eagerly waiting in the screening theater, I was told multiple times it most likely wouldn’t matter.
This film opens with a jail break, or rather a jail bus breakout, which is so rushed through you barely realize what’s happened before we’re on to the next thing. And that next thing is a daring train heist, in which our heroes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) along with Dom’s sister and Brian’s girlfriend Mia (Jordanna Brewster) must ally themselves with old acquiantance Vince (Matt Schulze) and some foreign thugs in an attempt to steal some sleek vehicles. This sequence is fairly ridiculous in terms of its action, but it’s so intense and over the top you just go with it… all the way to its insane finish. Let’s just say things go wrong, and our protagonists find themselves going into hiding in Rio, where a man named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and his right hand man Zizi (Michael Irby) control all crime and crooked cops in the city. Dom devises a new job, which involves relieving Reyes from all of his wealth, and therefore removing his power. In order to succeed O’Conner and Toretto put together a team, comprised of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar) – all highly skilled professionals in their respective professions, despite how shady some of them may seem. While this plan is being put into motion, Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his recruited Rio officer Elena (Elsa Pataky) are hot on the trail of our heroes, and well aware of their skills behind the wheel. Can Dom and Brian pull off their “one last job” before they get caught, or do they even stand a chance against Reyes and his goons?
I’ll just go ahead and say it, FAST FIVE is five times the fun of the other films in the franchise. The action scenes are ramped up, and the dialogue is snappy and entertaining. This is one of those movies you’ll watch and think you shouldn’t be enjoying, but you just can’t help yourself. I dare say this may just be the best of the franchise, in that it recaptures the spirit of the original and surpasses the quality of it. All the returning characters have had time to comfortably fit in their respective roles, and the chemistry between them is undeniable. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have never been better, and that’s across the board for any of their film appearances. There’s a strong element of “family” expressed in the story, and in many ways it helps the film work on several levels. Then there’s the obvious draws – The fight between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson is worth the price of admission alone, not holding back on bone-cracking punches and kicks, and pushing the boundaries of the film’s PG-13 rating. And the chase scenes? Well, those are pretty much incredible, and so silly you force yourself to check your brain and just go along for the ride. The final street sequence is perhaps the most ridiculous car chase ever put to film… and yet it works.
There’s a few let downs, though minor, such as having a great character actor like Joaquim de Almeida playing the baddie, and never getting a whole lot to do other than act menacing. But these movies aren’t supposed to be about the bad guy, they’re supposed to be about the heroes driving fast and pulling off daring heists. All the pistons are firing this time around, whether it’s director Justin Lin’s sharp eye for intense action, or even Brian Tyler’s heart-pounding and impressive score. And what’s even more impressive is that even with so many characters filling the screen, all of them get their own respective glory moments, and none of the “team” feels ignored… that’s a rarity in these types of movies. There’s even a passing thought that with 10 years between this outing and the first in the franchise, some of these actors should be looking too old to still be doing this, and yet they never do. You can look at a film like FAST FIVE and spend hours trying to pick it apart, but it’s so much easier to sit back and go along with the ride. I hear there’s already plans for a sixth movie in the franchise, but should they leave things with this outing being the end, it’s just about as perfect of a finale as they could get. Be sure to hang out halfway through the credits for a little head-scratching surprise, which will be really special for serious fans of the franchise.