By Malice Intended of Planet Ill
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has seemingly resigned himself to spending the rest of his life in prison when he is violently sprung from captivity by his partner Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his sister Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster). The trio immediately head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where they link up with their old buddy Vince (Matt Schulze). The four immediately get back into the heist business, but run afoul of both the DEA and corrupt local businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). This puts them in the middle of a rock and a hard place; their only salvation lying in the proverbial last big score. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) reenlist to the ranks of the Toretto gang in hopes of cashing in on the ultimate payday. As all of this comes together, DSS federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) decides to crash the party and bring Dominic and Brian to justice.
The Fast and the Furious franchise has been going full bore for the last decade, much to the chagrin of critics everywhere. The first film was nestled firmly in the world of street racing, and each one thereafter has found a variation on that theme while expanding the appeal of the series to a more generalized action adventure crowd. Each installment has proven to be more outlandish than the last, and Fast Five attempts to stuff the envelope to the bursting point. Director Justin Lin functions mainly as a hired gun in the tradition of Brett Ratner or McG. He has no discernable vision as a filmmaker, but he knows how to make stuff blow up really nice.
This series has always been the cinematic embodiment of superficiality. Everything in it is eye candy. The film has two unbelievably outlandish set pieces, one occurring in the first act and the other in the third. The first one is fairly standard, while the second displays a gall that makes Michael Bay’s action sequences seem like an exercise in realism. To director Justin Lin’s credit, both of these work admirably despite throwing plausibility completely to the winds. In their own way, they echo similar set pieces from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Road Warrior.
Since no Fast and Furious film would be complete without laughably transparent attempts at actual substance, Fast Five comes weighed down in melodramatics. Such histrionics lent the original a sort of charm. It played it straight even though the material was inherently silly. This time, it feels extraneous since the chemistry between these characters has already been established long ago. Tyrese and Luda in particular are at their best when they are allowed to do their shtick without the baggage of pretense.
If you’ve seen any or all of the past installments, then you already know what to expect from the cast. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese, and Luda all know their character beats. Jordana Brewster exists mainly as a reason for Paul Walker to keep going. The most delightful element of the film is the conflict between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. From the moment that “The Rock” appears onscreen you just know that a showdown is imminent. The Rock makes the most of it, allowing his considerable charisma to shine WWE style. That alone makes the film worth the price of admission.
Fast Five is like a dependable pizza delivery guy. It makes good on the promise of its trailers and the reputation of its brand name. The consumer gets exactly what he/she pays for. That being said, it won’t be surprising if many in the audience are left wanting. Action fans that take their movies seriously will enjoy this as a passing amusement while hoping that something more substantial comes along during the course of the summer. They can hardly be blamed for feeling that way, but they can’t say they weren’t warned. This series has been around long enough that aficionados should know exactly what to expect.