Fast Five is the last installment in the fuel-injected street racing series that began with The Fast and the Furious. F&F begat 2 Fast 2 Furious, followed by The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, then Fast and Furious and now Fast Five, (because presumably they didn't want to title it Faster and Furiouser.)
But after you've had car chases in Miami, L.A. and Tokyo, what's next? Well Fast Five relocates the action to Rio De Janeiro where Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew decide to rob a druglord named Reyes.
What more do you need to know? Just read ahead.
The actor formerly know as The Rock stars in Fast Five as Hobbs, the head of an elite task force sent to Rio to bring Dom and his bros back to the United States. Johnson can actually be quite charming. He almost made the Tooth Fairy movie bearable. But in Fast Five the former wrestler is back in full-on macho muscle mode.
Stepping off the plane when he arrives in Brazil, Johnson looks big enough to block the sun. His arms are like giant hams stapled to the side of his torso. His chest is so wide clapping is physically impossible. And to cap it all off, there's his bald glistening dome of head, like an angry bicep with eyebrows and Evil Spock's goatee.
Now I did mention Johnson's glistening head? Strangely, Hobbs is always perspiring in this film. His shiny skull is spotted with tiny beads of sweat. I have a vision of him being misted by some lackey with a spray bottle before each take. I wonder if it's scented with lavender, or maybe something more manly -- hickory and old cigars.
The pleasure in casting Johnson in Fast Five is that you know at some point these two towers of testosterone will collide with the sound of a grunting thunderclap. In a prelude to their dance, there's an earlier scene where Hobbs and his agents surprise Vin Diesel in the slums of Rio. Remember the thrilling Parkour-flavoured foot chases from The Bourne Ultimatum? Now imagine Diesel and Johnson, jumping and bounding from roof to roof, with all the grace of rhinos performing Swan Lake.
Eventually there is an actual Johnson/Diesel fist fight that for moment approaches the back alley tussle from They Live (sadly no pile-driver this time.)
Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom (Vin Diesel) compete to see who has the most aerodynamic hairdo. (Jaimie Trueblood/Universal Studios)
Fast Five begins with a car stopping dead in the middle of a highway, causing a bus to tumble across the desert. Flouting the laws of physics in the opening sequence sends a clear message. Forget about your quaint notions of torque, gravity and momentum. Everything Newton told you was a lie. We are in double-F world now. Cars fly, skid and spin, doing whatever Dom and his fuel-injected commandos require of them.
Now in the past, FF movies have been all foreplay and poor payoff. The most recent film climaxed with an almost unwatchable underground chase in a cave. While there are surprisingly few classic street races in Fast Five, the finale does feature two cars swinging a 20-tonne safe around the streets of Rio in an audacious symphony of destruction. So as the tiny voice in the back of your head natters on about how two cars could never pull that much weight, you can sit back and smile as a large metal vault slices through traffic islands and cop cars like tin foil.
The story of Fast Five is really no more ridiculous than the rest of the franchise. The basic FF modus operandi is like Ocean's Eleven -- high on gas fumes. Dom and Brian. (Paul Walker channeling Steve McQueen), are hiding out in Rio. For a variety of reasons they need to pull "one last job." Dom decides to use his hot-rod Robin Hood schtick to steal money from the kingpin of Rio's slums. That's all to be expected. What's hilarious is just how seriously the writers take the shared history of the Fast and Furious franchise as Dom reunites his crew. Does anyone really expect us to remember what happened between Don and Vince five films ago? Can you recall what Tej or Roman did other than drive really really fast? This isn't exactly the Godfather trilogy here. Yes, congratulations on making five movies around hot girls and cool cars, but if you think the we've been studying up on the finer aspects of F&F family tree in anticipation, it might be time to step out of the auto shop.
And there you go. As a story Fast Five is an abomination. But in the realm of sinful cinema, FF gets the guilty pleasure mix just right. Much like another zoom-zoom film, Fast Five knows excess is best. It's a sweaty, silly summer ride to kick off the season of cinematic spectacle ahead.
RATING: Three and half shiny bald heads out of Five.
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