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Fast Five (2011)

April 29, 2011


written by: Chris Morgan

produced by: Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel & Michael Fottrell

directed by: Justin Linn

rated Pg-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language)

131 min.

U.S. release date: April 29, 2011

Recently, I watched 2001′s “The Fast and the Furious” for the first time. That’s right. I filled the void in my cinematic misadventures which required fast cars and the furious dudes and babes who rev them. Loud engines and large tudes were plentiful and I must admit, I had a fun time being amused by the ridiculousness of it all.  Needless to say, it did not make me want to go out and test drive any stunts nor was I inspired to catch up on the rest of the films in preparation for  ”Fast Five”, the latest addition to this frivolous franchise.

For those already invested in these interchangeable films, who feel they’re dope, I can easily see how seeing this movie is a no-brainer (in more ways than one).  By now these band of thieves and thugs and their quasi-familial code of honor is accepted by you (instead of rejected by me). You may consider spending time and money on something like this as a “guilty pleasure” or maybe your just along for the ride. And to that I say “go for it,” since that’s what it’s out there for.

The opening wastes no time getting to the business of driving fast and crashing hard. We see Brian O’ Connor (Paul Walker) and his girl, Mia (Jordana Brewster) intercept a bus transporting his bro/her brother, Dom (Vin Diesel) to prison. The bus comes to a violent halt after repeated rolls and the movie’s title is then branded across the screen less the audience forgets why they’re there. Next thing you know, the renegades has migrated to Rio de Janiero, and they brought their cars (in the first of many “don’t ask” moments). They hook up with their put-upon and often over-looked friend, Vince (Matt Schulze), from the first film. He enlists their help stealing three cars from a speeding train, a job that was set-up for Dom, who is nowhere to be found. Of course, a tardy Dom joins them mid-heist in time for some preposterous stunts that would even impress Xander Cage.

The gang reunites in the dense Rio favelas, in a safe house where Dom convinces everyone to get on board for the requisite “one last job” and then they’ll “disappear forever”.  But we know better.  The plan is to rob local crime kingpin Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, the go-to drug lord guy) of various cash houses throughout the city. We then hear Dom proclaim “We’re gonna need a team” and guess what happens? The band’s back together!

That’s right, he maybe fugitive and in a foreign land, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have connections. We see a somewhat familiar team assemble in a veritable roll call. If I were to have seen all the previous films, I would know that Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), and Gisele (Gal Cadot), have all been here before. It doesn’t take a script doctor to put it all together, but boy could the agonizing dialogue use one.

fastfivecar

It all seems straightforward as the crew follows through with their hip-hop heist.  They search for the fastest cars, bond over brews and drop the “I’m pregnant” bomb. Wait, what? Thank the testosterone gods that a hulking federal agent named Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) comes barreling into this pretentious mess. Leading a team of expendable gung-ho agents, Hobbs is a force of nature, unrelenting in his pursuit of Dom and company. He’s assisted by local cop, Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), a woman with her own dogged determination who has a vendetta against Reyes. All parties converge in a variety of loud and explosive chases, twists and team-ups. The result is an adrenalized entertaining thriller when the movie is fast, and a tedious bore when it bothers to slow down, leaving one quite furious.

Director Justin Lin directed the last two “Fast and Furious” films, so this is my introduction to him. He handles action excellently. In fact, I found myself noticing that I could actually follow the action, which was quite refreshing. Thankfully, there’s no close cuts, extreme shaky shots or slo-mo nonsense. The chase scenes he films, both on foot and behind the wheel, are dynamic and impressive.  While it’s obvious there’s an amount of CGI used to sell the visuals, it’s not as obvious as other action flicks out there. Lin combines a good amount of actual stunt work with some slick camera work that will leave viewers with a good balance of “Whoa!” and “Ohhhh snap!”  What becomes annoying is the endless aerial shots of Rio. How many times must we see the Christ the Redeemer statue every time the city is in a film?

Screenwriter Chris Morgan also worked on the previous two films, and here he hopes to inject new life into the series with a new location and the addition of some new characters. Unfortunately, it becomes painfully challenging to take the whole thing as nothing more than one action sequence speeding to the next. Since the bland acting from the staple group of actors is so weak, I found myself wanting more screen time for Johnson.

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It’s these new characters, played by Johnson and Pataky (“Snakes on a Plane”) that provide a worthwhile payoff.  Pataky rises above any potential stereotypes that are expected in the role of the hottie cop, giving her an equal amount of grit and vulnerability.  Sole credit is due to Johnson though, or really in this case The Rock, since adding 30 lbs. of muscle to his already formidable frame, leaves him as a granite behemoth. With his sweaty bald head, full goatee and trademark burning stare; he makes any other macho character look wimpy in comparison. You expect some quippy one-liners from a role like this (and there are a few) but Hobbs is all business as he oozes 80′s action hero all over the place.

This makes seeing Hobbs and Dom in a wall-smashing smackdown the obvious highlight of the film.  Their fight plays out like a total “Who would win?” muscle fest.  They throw each through windows and bust each other’s heads, all while the audience cringes. It’s The Tooth Fairy vs. The Pacifier, in the first big-screen brawl of the year, and I welcomed it wholeheartedly. But then Lin had to go and ruin it by showing both characters unscathed in the scenes to follow. It’s as if everything we just witnessed was done by stunt doubles – so much for consistency.

It’s erroneous errors like these that bring the movie down. It’s too bad, because we’re going in expecting more of the same, and when the new elements provide something that earns our attention, it’s the misfire moves that bring us back to mediocrity. Still, it’s a reminder what kind of movie this is, and that there certainly is an audience for it.

Concluding with some insane action involving the boys dragging an enormous vault through downtown Rio with their cars, and ending with a post-credit scene that guarantees a sequel, this will easily finish in first place opening weekend. If I could only see a version of ”Fast Five” that would eliminate all the needless nonsense and just provide high-octane trash. Now, that’s something I’d buckle up for!

fastfivesmackdown

RATING: **1/2

 
 

 
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