I have to admit up front, for better and worse I love big, dumb, fun, action movies. While the granddaddy of them all will probably forever be Torque, there’s always room for something new. So long as there are lots of car crashes, outlandish stunts, and loads of unintentional humor, I’m always game. This weeks’ entry into the canon that cannot be stopped comes from a long line of successors in excess – Fast Five.
Having now directed the last three Fast and… um, Fast &… err… films in the series, Justin Lin has really shown signs of figuring out how to piece together a spectacular action sequence. While the cast may look like they’re having a lot of fun, some of that is taken away by screenwriter Chris Morgan’s dialogue, who happens to be getting to spend his own time in the spotlight this week.
Okay, so that isn’t really the same guy responsible for bringing us some hilariously bad and even some surprisingly good screenplays at the turn of a dime. But Wanted was a total blast, Cellular was the best movie Paul Walker never made, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift had its moments even without a single original cast member. Weirdly, Fast & Furious was the first attempt to bring back the whole crew yet seemed stuck in idle way too often. In Fast Five, Lin and Morgan reteam for what ultimately plays out like the series’ greatest hits collection.
Fast Five starts immediately where the end of Fast & Furious cuts to credits. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been sentenced to Lompoc Prison but is rescued by Brian O’Conner (Walker) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). The resulting bus crash even being poked fun at that there was not one tragedy. Now the three are on the run in Brazil and have decided to go on a job with Vince (Matt Schulze, returning for the first time since the original). At least this film has no singing birds and is thankfully not in 3-D.
This time they’re stealing some high end cars off a moving train. Faster than you can say, “vroom,” double crosses rear their heads, Vince goes missing, and now the trio must find out why Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) wants one of the cars so badly. Turns out there’s a chip with all of Reyes’ drug trafficking stops on it and now the merry band of misfits want to clear their names, after Reyes’ men killed DEA agents back on the train, in exchange for his chip back.
They also find time to bring back cast members from all four of the last films including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang), and Gisele (Gal Gadot). But now they’re being tracked down by the FBI’s number one muscleman, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and local agent Elena (Elsa Pataky). If this series seriously needed anything to enlighten it, it’s the addition of the man once known as “The Rock.” His lines seem so naturally hilarious there’s no way Morgan wrote them himself. Who knew that an ounce of improv on a film like this could go such a long way? On a side note, Johnson also manages to make Diesel look like a pipsqueak anytime they’re in the same shot. Not ideal for when you pit them against each other in a lengthy mano a mano brawl.
To say any more regarding the plot would be a waste of time; suffice it to say that as “Morgan” states in his interview, the cars go fast and sometimes they go boom. Director Lin has admittedly come a long way with what he can pull off using age-old pyrotechnics and stuntmen that it’s no wonder it was just announced he’s teaming up with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the next Terminator. One scene in particular seems almost like an extension of the city block destruction sequence in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You can’t help but wonder if Lin decided to stage it the way he did as a demo to convince the Governator into sealing the deal. If that’s what it was really all about then consider me sold!
All in all, no one can ever call this a literal good movie. For what it is however, it’s a great movie. Even with the runtime clocking in at 130 minutes it flies right by as all good actioners should. Pumped with more adrenaline and testosterone than all of the first four films combined, Fast Five delivers on all counts, where it counts. Fans of the series will eat this up with a spoon (myself included). And what more could you really ask for as the summer film season officially explodes into cinemas this weekend?
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures