Fast Five Reviewby Homer Yen (homeryen88 AT gmail DOT com)
May 1st, 2011
Fast Five - High Octane Fun
by Homer Yen
Dumb? Sure! Brawny? Of course! Full of cars with fast engines and girls with tight bodies? Yes! It's all of the necessary ingredients that we've come to expect from this surprisingly-resilient but men-must-go-to-see-this franchise. But hold on...something inexplicable and wonderfully supercharged happened here. The locale is more exotic, the chase sequences are more revved up, the characters are more three dimensional, and there is an added level of creativity and cleverness injected into the mixture. That makes "Fast Five" better than F&F parts 2, 3, and 4 combined!
Justin Lin (director of the 3rd and 4th installments) returns to direct the 5th installment and he has all the right pieces to work with here. I credit him for making the 3rd installment (2006's Tokyo Drift) somewhat romantic despite having no real holdovers to work with from the initial two F&F films and really no story to tell. The 4th installment (2009's Fast and Furious) brought the F&F franchise closer to its original tough-guy/fast-car roots. But while it was a good film, it was somewhat undermined by dark settings, dark undertones, a diminished lack of bravado, and lower-than-average-quality special effects. But the head honchos at the studio have opened up their wallets for this one and are pushing things to the redline, even bordering on an "R" rating for the ramped up violence. Howevwer, Justin Lin, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the gang gives the audience something to cheer about.
Despite a ridiculously unsatisfying opening sequence, the film finds BFFs Dom (Diesel) and Brian (Walker) in Rio De Janiero. In a tense action sequence that could've been big enough to be the finale to any action film, they are in the midst of a complicated heist on a fast-moving train. As would be expected, a botched set-up and double-cross goes horribly wrong. And, as a result, the Rio De Janiero crime warlord launches an all-out manhunt to kill them. Meanwhile, the FBI sends a beast-of-an-agent named Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) to track down the now-fugitives, Dom and Brian, and to bring them back to American soil to face justice.
Welcome to Rio, now the land of the alpha-male. But even alpha-male heroes need help. So, Dom and Brian look to assemble a team as they look to stay ahead of Agent Hobbs while exacting some delicious payback from the Rio warlord. There are some new faces in the mix. But, many of the familiar ones from the franchise return. Even for the casual fan, the sight of them re-uniting to help Dom pull off an improbable job brings about a sense of sublime joy. Each one brings to the table a specific and needed talent whether it's supreme driving skills, knowledge of explosives, electronics wizardry, or just having a killer body in a bikini. This project has graduated from the Fast and Furious level to the sexy and fun and slick level of "Ocean's 11" with an added level of horsepower.
Now, I did wonder one thing as this parallel emerged. In the "Ocean" films, that crew is pulling off capers involving mega-casinos. So, they certainly have money to bankroll their future operations. Where is Dom & Co getting their monies from? All I recollect them doing are stealing rigloads of DVD players or hijacking an oil tanker or freelancing as a drug smuggler.
But perhaps, that was the missing piece in the last few installments. "Ocean's 11" was about a bold heist to steal a casino-full of cash. "The Italian Job" was about a bold heist to steal a vault-full of gold bars. Here, it's about a bold heist to steal $100,000,000 from a criminal so campy and cruel that even I would get behind the wheel to help Dom/Brian & Co if they asked. The personal stakes are bigger, the wonton destruction is more massive, and death toll is greater, and the action is more-than-ever fast and furious.
S: 1 out of 3
L: 2 out of 3
V: 2 out of 3
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