Monday, May 2, 2011

Movie Review: Fast Five

Fast Five ** ½
Directed by: Justin Lin.
Written by: Chris Morgan based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson.
Starring: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O'Conner), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Matt Schulze (Vince), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Tego Calderon (Leo), Don Omar (Santos), Joaquim de Almeida (Reyes), Elsa Pataky (Elena), Michael Irby (Zizi), Fernando Chien (Wilkes).

Typically, by the third sequel, a movie series has simply run out of gas. What made the series popular initially has been copied and recopied not only by the sequels before it, but by a run of rip-offs trying to cash in on the success of the original. Often times, the original cast has moved on to other projects, and the film is really just another knockoff – using a name audiences like to try and fool them into thinking they’ll like this movie as well.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a huge fan of The Fast and the Furious franchise, but I think it is an exception to the rule. I don’t think any of the now five films is all that special, but none of them are horrible either. Remarkably, they have pretty much kept up the same quality level throughout the series. The one thing you can say about this franchise is that with each film, it delivers precisely what you expect it to.

This movie begins with Dominic (Vin Diesel) being sentenced to 25 years to life in prison – but we know that won’t last long. On the bus ride there, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend, Dominic’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) break him out – of course at the end of a spectacular car chase and crash, which they tell us no one was hurt – and the gang makes their way down to Brazil. They sign on for a job that goes wrong of course, and puts them on the wrong side of the local drug kingpin (Joaquim de Almeida). And then there is a Federal man hunting task force led by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who is also chasing them. Soon they have assembled much of the casts of the previous four movies and are trying for “one last job” – Ocean’s 11 style.

The movie is what it is, no more, no less. By this point Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and the rest of the returning cast can pretty much play these roles in their sleep, but they don’t. Limited acting ability that many of them may have, they do really seem to care in this movie and are not simply going through the motions. Director Justin Lin, who has made the last three movies in this series, does a fine job – not just with the car chases, but with all the heist stuff in the film. More than the other films in the series, that’s really what this one is – a heist film. If I am a little disappointed in Lin, it’s because his debut film, Better Luck Tomorrow, was such a smart, sure handed film (for those of you who haven’t seen, and I assume that’s almost everyone, it is a high school film about a group of overachieving Asian students who are bored at school, and slowly but surely get involved in criminal activity – starting slowly by selling exam answers and ending with a surprising number of bodies piling up). He isn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last, filmmaker to make a promising debut indie film, and then spend the rest of his career making Hollywood trash, but it is disappointing every time it happens.

I must admit, I have a hard time getting too worked about this film one way or another. I feel I have already reviewed the film, and in a very real way I have. It’s just as big, dumb and loud as the other films in the series. At the same point, it’s just as stupidly entertaining as the others as well. It is a film where I cannot really think of anything to say about it – the truth is, you already know if you’re going to like the film walking into it. So, if you are a fan of the series, than Fast Five delivers the goods. And it you’re not, what made you think that this time would be any different?


  1. Perhaps you just took the film too seriously, Dave. I mean, Fast Five (and the rest of the car movie franchise) is definitely nothing like Ronin or Bullitt, but maybe if you just lowered your expectations a bit, you could have enjoyed it more. Just take White Chicks for example. It was panned by critics, but many people regard it as one of those it's-so-bad-that-it's-good films.

  2. I have always subscribed to Pauline Kael's theory that "Movies are so rarely great art that if you can't enjoy great trash, there's no point in going". I didn't go in expecting a Bullitt or a Ronin or a French Connection or a To Live and Die in LA - or whatever other great crime movie involving cars you could name. And I did mildly enjoy the film, hence the two and half star raring. This certainly isn't a pan. However, I didn't enjoy the film, even on its given level, enough to give it an unqualified recommendation. I don't think I expected too much - hell, I liked Drive Angry earlier this year. I will disagree with you on White Chicks though - that movie is just plain awful. But then, I have never been a fan of movies that are "so bad they're good".