Friday, April 29, 2011

Movie Review: Fast Five

Disgraced former police officer Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) intercept the prison transport taking Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to spend a minimum of twenty five years in prison.  After a dramatic escape, the group reunites in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with their friend Vince (Matt Schulze).  Shortly thereafter, it’s back to business as usual for the foursome of heist masters. 

When a job done in conjunction with the minions of crooked Brazilian businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) results in the death of three DEA agents, the extended Torretto family finds itself at the top of the worlds most wanted list.  They also happen to be in possession of some very vital information regarding Reyes business interests.  

Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in free fall.

They decide that it’s time to disappear off the grid for good, and enlist the help of old buddies like Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) to help them pull off the score of a lifetime.  As they set their plans for early retirement in motion, they are being tracked by DSS federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).  Hobbs means business, and comes barreling toward them like a rabid dog.  As expected, none of this deters Toretto and O’Conner from moving ahead with the plan.

Fast Five is the fifth entry in the The Fast & The Furious franchise, which has become one of the more dependable action franchises of the last decade by default.  That’s not to say that they have anything in the way of lofty ambitions, just that they consistently deliver exactly what their audience has come to expect.  Fast Five is no different, and exhibits brazen abandon as it attempts to raise the bar to ludicrous heights.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) doing a bit of regulating.

Stunts, elaborate caper sequences and chase/racing scenes have always been the hallmark of the series.  In each outing, the action seems to adhere less to logic or probability.  Fast Five delves full on into Indiana Jones/Mad Max territory and beyond.  A train robbery devolves into insanity, and the chase that ends the film is appallingly unbelievable in its conception and execution.  Yet, they both work.  They keep the audience watching if only out of morbid curiosity as to how far the filmmakers are willing to go.
As is also a hallmark of the serious, Fast Five wears its insincere pretensions toward high drama proudly on its sleeve.  In the first film (which was essentially Point Break for the street racing crowd) those pretensions lent the proceedings a sense of fun.  Here, it actually hinders the considerable chemistry that the cast has built up over the course of the last four installments.  It actually brings the proceedings grinding to a halt in some cases.  These characters obviously like and care for one another, and they don’t need the extraneous baggage.

DSS federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).

Each one of the principal actors does exactly what they’ve been required to do from the series thus far, albeit with the volume cranked up until the knob pops off the receiver.  If you liked Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in earlier F&F movies, you will like them here.  Tyrese has made a virtual career out of playing the same character over and over and does so here with relish.  The real stand out is Dwayne Johnson.  In an alternate universe where all is just and fair, “The Rock” would be one of the biggest action stars of all time.  Here, the film comes to life upon his entrance.  With him having bulked back up to his WWE size, he is the very picture of a comic book hero.  Fast Five likely wouldn’t have been as much fun with out him.

Despite what its melodramatic posturing would have you to believe, Fast Five hasn’t a thought in its head.  It’s a drug for those who get high off fast cars, improbable stunts, and female posteriors lovingly caressed by skimpy bikinis.  It does not represent any significant innovation on the part of its own brand or action films in general.  It provides a delightful high, but will leave more thoughtful action fans clamoring for a more substantial meal to balance out the empty calories. 

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