Review: Fast Five
PLOT: After the events of the last film; Dominic (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are now fugitives, and hiding out in Rio De Janeiro. After a heist goes wrong, they find themselves marked for death by a drug lord, with their only hope of escaping Brazil being to take down the kingpin before he gets to them. Meanwhile, they're also in the cross-hairs of a special FBI task-force headed by the relentless Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).
REVIEW: I can't believe the FAST & FURIOUS franchise is already ten years old! I remember the first film coming out the summer before I started university, and being all the rage around the suburban area I grew up in. Truth be told, I was never big on THE FAST & THE FURIOUS. I always liked Vin Diesel, but I thought the film was little more than a rip-off of POINT BREAK, and having re-watched it again about a year ago, I'm amazed at how badly it's dated (particularly the Ja Rule-heavy hip-hop soundtrack).
The less said about the sequels the better, although I thought TOKYO DRIFT was OK. The last FAST & FURIOUS didn't really float my boat, so I wasn't terribly enthused to hear they were doing a fifth. That said, the trailer was great, and the buzz on the film has been fantastic, so I went into it cautiously optimistic.
In this case, the buzz was right. FAST FIVE is a slam-bang action flick, and easily the best film in the franchise by a wide margin. While it's certainly connected to the other films (with a lot of cast members from throughout the franchise popping up) it really feels like a franchise reboot, as the car-culture/street-race vibe of the other films has been more or less completely dropped. This is a hard-core action/heist flick, and if the thunderous reception it got at the sneak preview I attended is any judge, the start of a whole new FAST franchise.
One thing that's obvious right off the bat is that Universal pumped a ton of money into this thing, with this being the first film of the series to really look and feel like a tent-pole summer flick. While he's taken a bit of good-natured ribbing over the net the last few days, Chris Morgan's screenplay is pretty damn effective for an action flick, especially one from this series. One of the worst things about the other films was the cringe-inducing dialogue, but here, things are operating on a higher level. Don't get me wrong- it ain't David Mamet, but compared to some of the other tent-pole movies we've seen lately, the script and premise are pretty tight (although, as the Hollywood norm, the laws of physics seemingly don't apply in this film).
Justin Lin, who also directed the third and forth films, deserves his share of credit too- with the action sequences being top-notch, with a minimum of CGI, no shaky-cam (thank God), and clean, crisp cinematography (my big issue with number 4 for that the night-time action sequences were hard to decipher). Despite being the longest of the series at 130 minutes, FAST FIVE actually feels a good deal shorter than the other films, due to the tight pace, and lack of flab in the film's midsection (which which is always were the other films really dragged). The action sequences are a lot of fun, with a good mix of car chases, gunfights, MMA-style throw-downs, and even some parkour thrown in for good measure.
For Vin Diesel, FAST FIVE feels like a near-return to XXX territory, with his Toretto being more of an action superhero here than he was in previous films. Audiences really seem to love Diesel in this kind of thing, and he's more energized here than he's been in a long time. One thing that really impressed me was his big mano-a-mano with The Rock, as I never pegged Diesel as much of a hand-to-hand guy (his fights in BABYLON AD were atrocious). Their brawl is pretty damn cool, and it looks like both did a lot of the work themselves, with this being one of the few fight scenes to come along in recent years with easily discernible action. Diesel really fits the action-hero mold here to a T, with this being the first time that I've walked away from one of his action flicks completely satisfied.
While taking a backseat to Diesel (and even The Rock at times), Paul Walker is pretty solid here, with him coming off as less of a pretty boy then he did in the other films. The extra decade looks good on him, and like Diesel, he handles himself well in the action scenes (with him having a nifty foot-chase early in the film).
As for The Rock- like Diesel, FAST FIVE is the first time I've really been satisfied by one of his films. While he always seemed to be a promising action hero, the only movie of his I kinda liked before this was THE RUNDOWN, but he's got a perfectly tailored part as the hard-as-nails fed tracking our heroes down. Fans need not worry, he gets a lot of screen-time here, and it's pretty obvious this isn't the last the franchise has seen of him.
It was also fun seeing a lot of the supporting cast from the other films come back, even if I wasn't keen on their respective installments. Jordana Brewster gets her best role in the franchise to date as Mia, and it must be said, she's still a gorgeous woman. Same goes for the luscious Gal Godot- not to mention Elsa Pataky, as a new love-interest for Dom. Sung Kang, despite being killed off in TOKYO DRIFT is still alive and well here, which I suppose makes this a prequel, and fan-favorites Tyrese and Ludacris are also back, with them more or less being the comic relief. Matt Shulze, also makes his return to the franchise, with him once again playing the possibly two-faced Vince, who still resents Walker's ex-fed for having busted up the gang in the first film.
All in all, FAST FIVE was a blast, and a damn fine way to kick off what I hope will be a summer of fun tent-pole films. One thing's for sure, this isn't the last you've seen of the FAST gang, which is made explicitly clear in a post-credits tag scene everyone should make a point of sticking around for. For the first time in this franchise's history, I'm totally pumped for another film, and if they continue in this lean, action-heavy direction, there's no telling how much life this franchise may have left in it.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Is it just me, or does The Rock always look like he's covered in about a liter of sweat?|