Theatrical Review: Fast Five

Following the events of the fourth movie in the series, Fast & Furious, Dominic Toretto once again finds himself facing a very long prison sentence.  As before, this doesn’t last long.  Dom’s sister, Mia, and his former adversary, now ally, former Federal Agent Brian O’Connor stage a daring escape putting all three once again on the run.

The trio have made their way to Rio de Janeiro and soon find themselves having to take a major car theft job.  In the process of the theft, DEA agents are killed and the blame is given to the Torettos and O’Connor.  They’ve obviously been framed and now seek out revenge against the man who framed them, crime boss Reyes, who controls Rio and has most of the police in his back pocket.  They plan a major heist to take 100 million dollars from Reyes and in order to do that properly they need to assemble a team.  All of this needs to be done while dodging the attempts of a ruthless federal agent, Luke Hobbs, who’s in full pursuit.

That’s the basic premise to Fast Five, the latest film in The Fast And The Furious series and the third time out for director Justin Lin.  I imagine that when some saw the trailers for this, there were a lot of eye rolls, oh no, not another one of “those” movies.  Well, not from me, I absolutely love these films and was very much looking forward to Fast Five. Justin Lin and his terrific cast and crew did not disappoint me in the slightest.  Fast Five is terrific fun.

Oh sure, I’ll grant you that they’re over-the-top and not the most complicated of affairs out there.  That’s OK, they’re pure entertainment always filled with some terrific stunt work and very comfortable characters who their audience enjoys returning to.  You get that in spades with Fast Five, and with this movie, the franchise is making a transition from not just being about the street racing culture but also incorporating heist film elements.

The stunt work is incredible with the capper being an amazing 20-minute chase through the streets of Rio involving nearly 200 cars without any overt CGI involvement.  But it’s not all about the chase.  There are real advancements of character here, and all of the characters who are part of this team get their due.

Justin Lin has really matured as a filmmaker with Fast Five. This is the longest movie in the series weighing in at 130 minutes, and Lin doesn’t waste a moment of screen time.  It’s paced just right with plenty of action and the right amounts of subtle comedy and character in-between.

Fast Five has a great cast.  Returning, of course, are Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as Dom Toretto and Brian O’Connor respectively.  These guys are rock solid here and it’s obvious watching this that their relationship has matured.  Jordana Brewster also returns as Dom’s sister and Brian’s love interest, Mia, and she also adds a new element to the mix.  In addition, we’ve got a slew of returnees from the previous films to make up the team.  These returnees include Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon and Don Omar.  All of them get their moments to shine, but the best of the bunch is Tyrese Gibson who gets off some genuinely funny lines throughout the movie.  This is a good group and to me the only thing missing is Lucas Black from the third film in the series, Tokyo Drift. I certainly hope eventually they see fit to get Black back in the series, and the opportunity certainly looks like it could happen.

Joaqim de Almeida plays Reyes, the villain of our piece, and it’s certainly nothing new for him.  My own first exposure to de Almeida came with the Tom Clancy film, Clear And Present Danger. While he doesn’t quite have the depth here as he did in that movie (and others since), his presence alone still gives the part credibility.

New to the series is Elsa Pataky who plays a rookie Rio cop Elena who’s tasked with helping the federal agents in pursuit of the team.  She even has her own back story that’s pretty well established here and leads to further involvement with Dom Toretto.  And of course, there’s Dwayne Johnson who is just terrific as Luke Hobbs.  It is so cool to see Johnson back in these straight-up action films.  He’s hard-edged and imposing in every scene he’s in.  I’ve heard that there’s the possibility that they might spin him off into his own movie after this, and that would be great, I’d certainly pay to see that.  But, it also looks like he’ll be involved with the sixth film in this series as well.

Yes, already a sixth is in the planning stages.  If you’re planning to see this film, then stay through the end credits because we do get one more scene tacked on which sets up the next movie and brings back two more characters from the previous films.  This was icing on an already delicious cake and already I cannot wait for the sixth movie in the series.

Fast Five is just a fantastic piece of total entertainment.  If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll probably have a great time with this.  It’s all there, amazing car stunts, engaging though simple characters, and a well-paced and packed story.  If you’re one of the eye-roillers, I doubt I can ever convince you that Fast Five is a great movie.  Still, I and the group of friends that I saw this with, had a terrific night.  If you’re a fan of this series, you don’t want to miss this.  Highly, highly recommended.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

01. May 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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