Not many franchises reach a 5th, let alone a 6th or even 7th installment. Somehow the Fast & The Furious did manage this, but they also managed something other franchises usually don’t: with every installment they seem to increase in terms of quality. The more the movies stray away from the corny street racing scene which was so front and center in the first three movies the better they seem to get. Not that these movies are artistic triumphs or important works, but they are becoming more enjoyable to watch with every installment. Despite the rehashed plot Fast & Furious was a better movie than the previous 3 and I have to say Fast Five is even better.
One of the key moments in Fast Five is when Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Walker) go to a street race because they need a fast car. Instead of yet another tiresome on screen race the movie first shows them challenging a guy and then show them entering their hideout with the car they’ve just won. It’s this moment that finally has this series move on from with what it first started with; illegal street racing. I never had any connection with that element in the series and it actually seemingly created of a lot of homoerotic undertones. It was the element that made the previous movies just car movies for boys, like the same way girls have their “High School Musical” and “Bring it on” franchises.
In Fast Five the gang has just broken Diesel out of custody by having the bus transporting prisoners crash against Paul Walker’s muscle car which has the bus flip over it and tumbling multiple times before it comes to a standstill. The first of many action scenes that can only happen in movies because they defy every physical law. All the cars in these movies have incredible axles that still function property after taking enormous jumps, and somehow two cars can pull an enormous safe out of a wall and drag it through the streets of Rio without a problem. Preposterous, but fun.
There are two main story lines in Fast Five and a couple of small subplots. First of all there’s the gang of Diesel and Walker reuniting with a lot of characters from the previous movies to take on a big time drug dealer (Yes, again). Returning are not only the characters from the 4th movie including Gisele (Gal Gadot), Tego (Tego Calderon) and Rico (Don Omar), but also Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Ludacris) from 2 Fast 2 Furious. Even Vince (Matt Schulze) from the first movie returns and has a subplot as being the guy the gang isn’t sure they can trust.
The other major story line is that of franchise newcomer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He plays Luke Hobbs, the bureau’s hard nosed federal agent given the task to find these fugitives and return them. He’s basically The Fugitive’s Tommy Lee Jones on steroids. Johnson is so big in this movie he could be the reason wide screen was invented.
Fast Five is filled with shoot-outs, car chases, fight scenes and elaborate heist schemes. Everything is deliciously over the top, and can’t be taken seriously at all. Even the car that The Rock drives is nothing short of jaw dropping insane. He drives a Gurkha LAPV, which is an armored vehicle, through the streets of Rio and crashes through walls. It’s these things that make this movie actually fun, even though I was constantly face palming and yelling “really?” at the screen every time I was asked to suspend my disbelief; in terms of stunts but also by the script.
The biggest remark I have is probably the jurisdiction Hobbs has. He’s a federal agent in a foreign country, yet he and his private army drive around Rio in their armored vehicles carrying enormous guns and finding themselves in shoot-outs killing tons of Brazilians. They might be gangsters but they are being shot by Federal agents from another country. What kind of government would allow this, especially when you take in consideration that the drug dealer who’s army they’re fighting has bought most of the government officials and police? Another thing concerning Hobbs was the fact that in the last act of the movie he and Toretto form an uneasy truce and he even aids Toretto in pulling off the heist. This was so out of character, seeing how hard nosed he was. Letting Toretto go after he saved his life is one thing, but to aid a wanted fugitive at stealing a safe out of a police building is a whole other ball game. Conner got too attached in the first and fourth movie while being undercover, but Hobbs was about to take them back to the US before his men got killed. Even if his men got killed, his character would never start to crash through walls in a police station.
This also brings me to my main complaint about this movie; while the script has all of these insane moments the actors all play it straight, they hardly seem to be in on the joke and handle the material as if it were Shakespeare, though none of the “actors” in this movie are thespians. Come to think of it this movie stars four musicians (one of whom is an ex-model), another male model, Miss Israel and a wrestler. I should be grateful these people were even able to get their lines straight.
With a running time of over two hours the movie is also doesn’t know what to focus on. There are too many subplots like that of Vince or Mia’s pregnancy. They don’t bring much to the story. Also the private army of the drug dealer pops up every time the script requires a sudden action scene, it felt a bit forced. The movie could have cut at least 30 minutes and it still wouldn’t feel as if anything was missing.
Those familiar with my reviews about these movies know that I love to point out all the homo-erotic undertones these movies have. This movie follows the trend of less undertones set by part 4, yet there are still moments that the movie incorporates them; First of all it’s a sausage fest as Toretto’s crew consists of only two girls, one of which is pregnant. Tego and Rico seem to be a couple as they are always together even on vacation, and a lot of the guys give each other constant sultry stares while sweating a lot: Toretto and O’Conner, Conner and Pearce, Hobbs and Toretto. Vince is clearly still pissed at O’Conner for stealing Toretto from him in the first movie. At one point Han even mentions how all the quarreling between the guys make it seem like a cockfight and Hobbs once specifically states that he wants to know when and how the drug dealer pees. Sure it was a figure of speech but there are a lot of ways he could have said something similar without referring to the man’s genitals. But other than that the movie is to busy giving us shoot-outs and other action scenes. No tissue sharing in this movie.
Fast Five puts the franchise finally firmly on track and is a fun action movie that seems to use practical effects a lot more than the previous movies did. It’s nothing really memorable, but it’s entertaining, loud and over the top, just how it should be.