Release Date: April 29, 2011
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jordana Brewster
MPAA Rating: PG-13
There is a magical point, which could be called the “Mystery Science Theater line,” where a film actually goes from being just plain bad to being so ridiculous that it’s actually entertaining. Recently, films like Crank and Snakes on a Plane have openly embraced crossing this line. And with the fifth installment in a film series dedicated to cars and explosions, it seems the powers that be behind Fast Five have (either knowingly or unknowingly) officially blown past that line.
The plot is nonsensical, the “acting” is subpar and every scene that doesn’t involve a car chase or a gunfight is just setting you up for the next big action sequence. If you are looking for great cinema, you should avoid this film at all costs. If, however, you want to see Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive a car off a cliff and then jump out of that car in midair so they can land completely unharmed in the water below, then this is the movie for you, my friend.
At times, Fast Five makes a modest effort to be a high tech heist film, but that’s really just window dressing. Ultimately, all of their schemes end up involving two basic components – driving fast and smashing things.
This is evident from the opening scene of the film, in which Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) break Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of prison. The two ambush Dominic’s prison bus in sports cars in what at first seems like an elaborate plan. But it quickly becomes apparent that their entire plan is simply to run the bus off the road, causing it to violently roll countless times, which somehow allows Toretto to escape unscathed in the ensuing carnage. Director Justin Lin doesn’t even bother showing us how Toretto escapes – once the bus finishes tumbling, we are treated to newsreel footage talking about his escape and the trio’s fugitive status. (The news footage also makes it clear that miraculously no one else was harmed in the crash and no other prisoners escaped, lest you were worried about the fate of his fictional fellow passengers.)
On the lam in Rio, the team gets burned on a job they do for a drug kingpin named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), which convinces them to seek revenge in the form of stealing $100 million in Reyes’ drug money. In a great bit of fan service, their plan involves assembling a team comprised of familiar faces from previous Fast and Furious films, all allegedly there for their “diverse” skill sets. Reyes essentially runs Rio by buying off the local cops, which makes the task at hand rather daunting. And further complicating things is the fact that the U.S. government has sent their best man, Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), and his team down to Rio to apprehend O’Conner, Toretto and Mia, who are now at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
The key to enjoying this film is the ability to shut your brain off as the action unfolds. If you stop at any point to think about the plot, it will simply make your head hurt. It’s best to just go with whatever plot turn is thrown at you.
Take, for example, how Reyes is presented. We are told that Reyes is a careful business man who makes sure never to leave a paper trail. And yet, for some reason he leaves the addresses of every single one of his safe houses on a GPS chip left inside a sports car seized by the DEA (which our antiheroes, of course, get their hands on). Once our team hits Reyes first safe house – which is poorly guarded and easy to take down – Reyes moves all of his cash to an impenetrable and heavily guarded vault only he can open, which is stored inside the local police station. If at any point you start to wonder why the police have such a vault standing by or why Reyes didn’t just keep his money there in the first place, try to block those thoughts from your mind and focus instead on how attractive Gal Gadot looks behind the wheel of a fast car or how wacky Tyrese Gibson’s one-liners are (“Mission: In-freakin’-sanity” indeed, Tyrese).
If all goes well, by the time the climax rolls around, you’ll have stopped questioning the plot completely. This is critical, since the story arc involving Hobbs and his incorruptible local partner Elena (Elsa Pataky) takes such a ridiculously unbelievable turn in the end that suspension of disbelief becomes a vast understatement.
But if all goes well and you can just strap in and enjoy the mindless action, you’ll be treated to some really fun car chases and lots of great explosions. Watching The Rock square off against Vin Diesel is incredibly fun and reminds you just how much potential these two have for making entertaining action movies, even if that potential is often squandered in subpar films.
Also, while there isn’t even much attempt at acting (Lin tends to rely on close-ups of his characters staring vacantly off into the distance to convey “emotion”), somehow the whole ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. The team, which is created piecemeal from all of the previous films, does have a really good chemistry together and the various actors all add a different feel to the film. Sung Kang and Gadot, in particular, are really fun to watch together.
So if you are in the mood for a pre-summer blockbuster packed full of mindless fun, Fast Five may just be the film for you. Just make sure to shut your brain off on the way into the theater.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.