Ten years ago now, an unassuming car genre movie became a surprise hit. But even then, when The Fast and the Furious made an unseen $144 million dollars, no one could have expected it to spawn a fourth sequel, with a fifth already being written before its predecessor hit theaters. But a lot has changed since then – what started as a film about underground racing has turned into an international action franchise that, in some countries, is outgrossing the traditional Summer-Opening Blockbuster.
But the Fast and, normally, Furious franchise doesn’t need to be as relatively subtle as its beginnings would suggest. Just the opposite, they define the summer movie of a bygone era, where you don’t have to play with genre or superpowers – all you need is beautiful people doing cool shit.
Fast Five doesn’t just get this, it understands it better than any of the four Furious films that preceded it. With the exception of 2 Fast 2 Furious, a movie as brilliantly stupid as its title, it may be the best of the bunch, proof that some movies need multiple sequels to find their biggest strengths.
Still, it’s intriguing to see how much these movies have changed over five installments. The first film seems downright philosophical in retrospect, looking at two men who love cars from opposite sides of the law. Fast Five? At this point, it’s more like Ocean’s Eleven than any racing movie. We get Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom (Vin Diesel, a name I still can’t believe) putting together a heist in hopes of taking away power from a Drug Dealer that practically runs Rio de Janeiro.
The levity of the premise is held up by a large supporting cast who would rather act cool than act emotionally – you know they’re having fun when the actor whose career started as a Rapper is playing the nerd. And, for this movie, it works.
In the leads, Diesel continues to smirk his way between serious muscle and serious cheese – whether he’s playing it straight is impossible to diagnose. And Walker . . . Walker continues to prove that he is perfectly capable of reading a script.
Whatever downfalls those two bring to the screen is countered by Dwayne Johnson in the Hammiest of all Ham roles. Even for a former wrestler, Johnson is bulked up to unnatural levels (between him and Diesel, there’s more beef in this film than some steakhouses). Out from his hairy goatee, he spits out the silliest of lines – when asked if he wanted the good or bad news, he answers “You know I eat my desserts first” without a second’s hesitation. Johnson understands better than anyone else in this production the amount of seriousness that this script and this series deserves. The biggest weakness of the film is that he only gets a few scenes.
It’s not without other flaws, though. Movies this mindless need to be breezy, but coming it at 131 minutes, Fast Five could have cut a lot pointless character development that a movie like this doesn’t know what to do with. Also frustrating is a final sequence which, while fittingly stupid and awesome, provides a cop-out of an explanation of how they pulled it off.
I’m being vague describing that ending, but it’s hard to imagine I could really ruin Fast Five for anyone. This is about as good as brainless Hollywood filmmaking gets, and I’m already excited for whatever silly name they give to the next installment
Didn’t get enough Fast Five fervor? Check out what the Cap’n thought over on RazorFine.