Monday, May 9, 2011

Fast Five

Spoiler alert-o-meter: A few mild spoilers ahead.

Not having seen the previous four Fast movies, I was afraid I’d be lost in Fast Five. My fears were unfounded. As the fourth sequel to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, Fast Five does a decent job of setting up the story in relation to what came before. And in Fast Five what came before has as much to do with family relations and friendship than racing cars.

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel (great name) are back as Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto, respectively. These guys have a long history, three previous film’s worth (the third in the series, The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Shift, featured different actors and only cadged the moniker). Brian used to be a cop. Toretto has escaped from prison once. Scratch that. Twice.

At least, twice after the opening sequence that starts with Toretto on a full prison bus headed through the desert toward a 25 years-without-parole stint (the reason no doubt shown at the end of the last installment two years ago). The bus ends up flipped, rolled, and flayed, thanks to a daring car stunt pulled by Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brian’s main squeeze and Torreto’s sister.

With Toretto sprung, the group heads out of the country as wanted criminals. They wind up in Rio de Janeiro, where one of their old gang, Vince (Matt Schulze), is holed up. They find him heavily armed living in one of Rio’s notorious favela neighborhoods that rim the hills surrounding the city. Vince has a job lined up for them already, to steal three cars  from a moving train. Cars that have been impounded by the DEA. Oh, and a corrupt Rio businessman named Reyes—who has every cop, drug dealer, and favela resident in his pocket—is after the cars, too.

During the heist three DEA agents are killed by Reyes’ henchmen. Toretto, Brian, and Mia are accused of the murder, which brings FBI agent Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his crack team  to hunt them down. Reyes is also after Toretto and Brian, after they find a flash drive in one of the stolen cars with information about the locations where Reyes’ keeps his millions of dirty money stashed. So now everybody is after this little team of car thieves.

Many of the actors from the previous films show up (including Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot) as part of the dream team Toretto and Brian put together to pull off an insane heist of Keyes' cash. Impossible and outrageous are the cornerstones of this movie. I don’t know what humble beginnings The Fast and the Furious franchise started with, but Fast Five traffics in high octane, silly, and slick thrills, with beautiful, multi-cultural characters preening and driving fast.

Due to all the destruction incurred to the streets, buildings, and barrios of Rio, there’s a high body count. But the blood is slicked over PG-13 style. Dwayne Johnson (known in recent years for comedies and kid-friendly flicks) keeps a straight face throughout, but that just adds to the feeling that he’s in the middle of a guest host spot on Saturday Night Live.

The direction, geared toward action as it is, leaves the dialogue and character development in the dust of so many speeding cars. During action scenes, when the actors aren't driving, they hit their mark, pose, announce their lines—Dwayne and Vin mostly shout—skip a beat for effect, and walk out of the shot.

But this is a franchise, and with respect to the target audience (teen-age boys) the movie scratches an itch that young America must continually need scratching. With a military-level shootout in the streets, a daring heist of a police station (!), and a car chase through the streets of downtown Rio with our heroes literally dragging a bank vault behind two speeding customized cars, Fast Five delivers on its promise to move fast and look good, checking its logic at the starting gate.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Thursday night, May 5th, 7:00 pm. Price $10.50. Viewed solo. Snack-Apple; chopped and bagged.

Coming Attractions:

Cars 2. The gang heads overseas for a European race and are mistaken for spies. Looks cute. More Pixar magic for Disney.

Change Up. Ryan Reynolds is a single guy popular with the ladies, but tired of his lifestyle. Jason Bateman is a married guy with a couple kids, also tired of his lifestyle. After pissing in a magic fountain (seriously!) the two switch lives. It's an R-rated Freaky Friday rip off. But, this one has potential.

Cowboys & Aliens. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford: "A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way."

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. Another Transformers sequel. This time, no Megan Fox. But a surprisingly strong lineup of actors including John Malkovich, Leonard Nimoy (voice), Hugo Weaving (voice), Francis McDormand, and John Turturro.

1 comment:

Cynthia Sherrick said...

This one doesn't sound like my cup of romance-preferred sprinkled tea, but you gave a spot on fast and furious review!
Thanks UN. :)