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It’s hard to imagine a popcorn franchise actually laying its golden egg in round five, but that’s just what happens with “Fast Five”, yet another installment in the street racing franchise, “The Fast and the Furious”, that only tops its love for bikini chicks and muscled mechanics with a passion for shiny cars.
Did anybody even know what NOS (nitrous oxide system) was before these films began 10 years ago? How about Vin Diesel? What began as something far too close to “Point Break” –– substituting surfing with street facing and Keanu Reeves with Paul Walker (can’t you just hear both of them saying, “I know kung fu,” in that same idiotic tone) –– has become its own Hollywood brand. I wouldn’t dare to call these films original, but they’re far more popular than other like-minded additions, so they must be doing something right.
In episode four, “Fast and Furious” (note the difference in the first film’s title; they took out both “thes”), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and FBI Agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) returned for the second time in the franchise. At the start of part five, our leading men are on the run with Diesel’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) in Rio, where they’re joined by an encore cast of characters from all the other films. Reprising his 2001 role, Vince (Matt Schultze) is back. Don’t remember him? Well he’s the only guy from Dom’s crew in the first film still alive. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), from “2 Fast 2 Furious”, tag along (and there is a cameo appearance from someone else, but don’t ask me who).
Next, we’ve got Han (Sung Kang), Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar) from “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (and brief appearances in part four). Finally, we welcome back the gorgeous Gisele (Gal Gabot), who serves as the primary female object of desire here (though they do rat chet down the cleavage and butt shots…a little).
In place of street racing is a heist film. Everyone gets the call from around the world to help Vin, Mia and Brian steal more than $100 million from crimelord, Reyes (Joaqium de Almeida). But the criminal big wig isn’t the only game in town as Rio police officer, Elena (Elsa Pataky), joins forces with CIA agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to track down our fugitives.
Love me or hate me, but I can’t deny the appeal of this one. True, the whole franchise has just what every chauvinist needs, enough juxtaposing shots of underdressed women and cars to confuse any heterosexual man’s ability to distinguish between people and objects, but at least they’re less prominent here as everything stays pretty focused on the central story, with little character development or montages with a rap song in the background. Quite frankly, that’s a huge win for a genre so lowbrow.
More than anything, “Fast Five” is just fun –– imagine a multiethnic “Ocean’s 11” flick with more childish jokes and twice the fight scenes. As the bar gets higher for the action film’s visceral expectations, prepare for a divorce from realism here, otherwise you’re in for one headache of a film.
Director, Justin Lin, is the best and worst thing to happen to this franchise. When he directed “Tokyo Drift”, the end of continuity was nigh, as the franchise said farewell to reoccurring characters, leaving the cars to comfort any nostalgic desire to keep watching. Luckily Lin turned things around in the next few films and the box office numbers speak louder than any potential critique (though most people seem to enjoy this one…who woulda thought). Lin succeeds even more with five, the best of the series, and we’ll see where things go with part six. I wonder what they’ll title it. How about “The Furious Six”; it’d work well next to “Fast Five” in a list.
Whether it’s ironic enjoyment or a sheer love for roller coaster ride movie experiences, “Fast Five” is a surprisingly entertaining way to spend the evening. Just bask in the idiocy and have a good time with the unbelievable special effects and trying to guess what’ll happen next.
Yes, we’ve all seen this film before, but “Fast Five” does it with a certain guilty-pleasure finesse. Plus, Vin and The Rock in the same movie reminds us that the meathead can still find a job after high school football is over.
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