The ads for Fast Five proudly announced that summer starts April 29, two months prior to the actual start of summer, but it very much fits because this film is in the same vein as a summer blockbuster. It's ridiculous, over-the-top antics designed to amuse the teenage to college-age crowds.
Except, I saw something interesting, not in the movie per se but in the movie theater. I attended the midnight screening and this movie did draw a significant crowd. Most of whom were college-age, but, directly in front of me in the line at the box office was a middle-age, black couple, and it made me wonder. It made me ponder why a couple that was outside the demographic was at a midnight screening, and, secondly, it made me wonder whatever their reason, whatever the passion this middle-age couple had to go to a midnight movie, I hope to God to have that same passion when I'm in their position.
I think that passion, that spirit or whatever it is, I think that that's what's needed to enjoy a movie like this. This movie is an insane, action flick that's almost pure adrenaline. It's certainly more adrenaline than the first film. Fast Five is obviously the fifth installment of The Fast and the Furious series. That being said, plot-wise, the four previous films are not required viewing. For certain inside jokes and the interdynamics as well as the context of the relationships between the main characters, watching the four previous would be helpful, but this movie stands alone as a solid heist film.
Vin Diesel stars as Dom Toretto, an escaped convict from Los Angeles who meets up with Mia, his sister, played by Jordana Brewster, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Paul Walker co-stars as Brian, a former cop who is Mia's boyfriend. Brian brought Mia to Brazil for a heist involving hijacking some high-priced cars from a moving train. Things take a turn when Dom discovers that one of the hijacked cars holds a secret that makes it even more high-priced. It's not much if you consider $100 million dollars to be not that much money. Learning that secret and trying to exploit it pits Dom up against a Brazilian kingpin.
This Brazilian kingpin named Reyes is very ruthless and very powerful. He's so powerful that this mobster basically has control of the entire police force in Rio. Dom is given the choice of walking away, but instead he decides to go after the kingpin and his money. This proves difficult as the money is guarded in a place that you wouldn't expect these guys to go. Yet, Dom absolutely wants to go there.
In order to break into this heavily-guarded place, Dom and Brian assemble a crack team of people to help him like Ocean's Eleven (2001). They include many of the main actors from the previous sequels. All of them are unique and interesting in their own way. The most interesting is Roman Pearce, played by Tyrese Gibson. His distinguishing feature is that he's got the biggest mouth, both literally and figuratively, and Tyrese by far uses it to get the most laughs here.
But, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot are also fun to watch, and, like with previous films, this movie comes down to strong and fast cars as well as the ability for these characters to drive them. My favorite such moment has Dom super-charging a Dodge Charger that becomes more versatile than the car that Jason Statham had in The Transporter (2002).
This movie is really like porn for KITT from Knight Rider. However, there are only three major driving sequences. The first is quick and is only intended to explain how Dom got out of prison. The second involves a moving train with more thrills than Tony Scott's Unstoppable. The third takes the team literally crashing through the streets of Brazil in spectacular fashion, culminating in a bridge sequence that was more stupendous than anything Tony Scott, James Cameron or even JJ Abrams in Mission: Impossible 3 ever cooked up. It's so stupendous that it's comical, extremely more comical than chase sequences in comedies like Date Night (2010) or Pineapple Express (2008) or Get Smart (2008), perhaps because the filmmakers take it to the maximum level.
Director Justin Lin makes these crazy driving sequences part of the main course, but he separates them with side dishes and appetizers that are quite delicious. One of which is the introduction and build up to the fight against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Johnson plays Lucas Hobbs, a federal agent sent to find Dom and arrest him and his team. Johnson is the Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive (1993)-equivalent, except The Rock is way more buff and way more dark-skinned.
Once The Rock appears on screen, it's inevitable that he and Vin Diesel will fight each other. You can't have two action stars, two paragons of Hollywood machismo in the same movie and not have them fight. That would have been like having Jet Li and Jackie Chan not fight each other in The Forbidden Kingdom (2008).
At least, Justin Lin didn't do what Rob Minkoff did in that movie. The fight between Vin Diesel and The Rock was intense, hard, and worthy of their talents. It looked real or at least not as choreographed, and it did what I wanted. It had me scared or at least worried that one of them might die in the end. In other words, there were believable stakes.
Lin also stages a shootout scene on the streets of Rio that is almost reminiscent of a scene from an Iraq war movie. The streets become like those in Baghdad or even Saudi Arabia as in The Kingdom (2007). Writer Chris Morgan builds an element of family between Dom and his team, disspelling the myth that there is no honor among thieves, nor love. It may not technically be the start of the season, but Fast Five is a perfect way to kick off the summer blockbusters.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.