Fast Five (2011)


Director:  Justin Lin
Cast:  Vin DieselPaul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Plot:  Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.

Genre:  Action / Crime / Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  130min
Rating:  PG13 for violence.

We find 'em, we take 'em as a team and we bring 'em back.  And above all else we don't ever, ever let them get into cars.

The fifth installment of the popular Fast and Furious series (2001, 2003, 2006, 2009), Fast Five is, as fanboys have claimed, the best of the franchise thus far.  I admit I have not seen the prequels prior to this, and even so, I doubt I would be even motivated to consider reviewing them, thus I cannot and will be unlikely to check the legitimacy of those claims.

That means this review is purely based on my observations of this film per se, and without any prior knowledge about this franchise nor its characters other than its long-running theme of fast cars, crime, and hot women.

Fast Five stars two muscle men in Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, who in one inevitable and obligatory scene are pitted against each other in an unarmed muscle fight to see…well, who has more muscles.  It also stars franchise veteran Paul Walker, and a huge supporting cast of mostly relative unknowns.

This gang of characters pulls out a daring heist of a vault containing a hundred million dollars belonging to a corporate-disguised drug lord with ties to the mob and the police.  Diesel, who plays Dominic, leads his team in the heist, while Johnson, who plays federal agent Hobbs, chases after them.

Directed by Justin Lin, who helmed the third and fourth installments of the series, Fast Five scores highly in its execution of action.  Lin shows that he is well-adept at directing car crashes, gunfights, and ka-booms, with the film providing fans with a near orgasmic brand of pedal-flooring excitement.

The action scenes are surprisingly clear to see and easy to follow.  In fact, they are so well-edited that not only do they generate suspense, but also present a kind of orchestrated sleekness not frequently seen in action movies these days.

Some, including myself, would feel that the action is extremely unrealistic in the way it defies the laws of physics.  The most obvious example is the entire climactic sequence involving two cars hauling a huge metal vault along the streets at full speed creating havoc that inconceivably does not seem to hurt anyone collaterally.

However, it is in the nature of this franchise that action is required (or rather, demanded) to be unrealistic.  Lin emphasizes this in the prologue sequence in which a police bus containing prisoners somersaults acrobatically after colliding with a car to the cheers of fans in the theater.

Fast Five’s story is slightly thicker than a wafer, and is serviceable only to the extent of progressing the plot.  Some characters may seem surplus to requirements but they do provide the occasional off-color humorous remark on their present circumstance.

In addition to the weak narrative and undeveloped characters, the entire film is not very well-paced, despite the excellent editing of action.  Much of the film drags along during times of planning of the heist and the test-driving of real sporty cars.  A number of expository scenes could be trimmed to create more urgency; in fact, I feel that this film is a good twenty minutes too long.

Fast Five gives a movie-going experience that alternates between adrenaline-pumping high and dull lows.  If your diet consists of brainless entertainment, this is your key to salvation.  If you are an action fan, this would also be your territory.  For those whom are just plain curious like me, I say try it out and judge for yourself.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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