Friday, April 29, 2011

Fast Five

There's insane and then there's INSANE. Every time I thought the latest edition of The Fast and the Furious franchise had hit the limits of insanity they proved me wrong and found new ways to defy logic, common sense, and basic laws of nature. There's a scene in last summer big-budget version of The A-Team where the team attempts to fly a tank that is falling through the air. The last twenty-minutes or so of Fast Five feel a lot like that.

With the exception of Michelle Rodriguez (whose character was killed off in the last installment), Fast Five brings together all the major characters of each of the films and picks up right where Fast & Furious left off with springing Turetto (Vin Diesel) from a prison bus.

Fast Five also gives us a new lawman. After the team is framed from the murder of two Federal Agents (because hunting them down for crimes they actually committed would be silly) the US Government sends the best to bring them in - Dwayne "Now that I'm back in the WWE you can call me The Rock again" Johnson.

Like all so-so action flicks there are parts that work (mostly the stunts), and parts that don't (plot, character, Paul Walker's "acting"). The film is helped by the addition of The Rock who gets off several of the film's funniest lines. However, I did feel let down by the big throwdown between Diesel and Johnson which is lessened by a darkened room, quick-cuts, and shaky cam techniques that let us only see glimpses of the fight we expect to see. What we're given is passable as they shove each other through walls, but given the size of the two men together on-screen the fight should have felt epic.

Even with all its issues the film still delivers a fun ride, mostly by amping up the action and crazy to extreme lengths which includes an incredible final chase sequence which involves a bank vault and an absurd amount of property damage across several city blocks.

Fast Five feels like a dumbed down smashmouth version of Oceans Eleven with the formation of a team, an impossible heist, and late plot twists to reveal what really happened. No, Diesel doesn't make the best George Clooney (nor does Walker work well as a stand-in for Brad Pitt), but for what the film is trying to do it works more often than not.

Although this is the fourth film in the series it is the third chronologically and takes place before the events of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (allowing the movie to incoprorate Sung Kang's character into the mix along with Tego Calderon and Don Omar).  Along with Diesel and Walker, Jordana Brewster and Matt Schulze return from the first film. From 2 Fast 2 Furious we get Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, and Gal Gadot reprises her role from Fast and Furious.

On the car front we get the vintage 70's Dodge Charger, some very nice police cruisers, and a couple of suped-up street racing cars, but on this area it's probably the weakest of the series. The plot simply doesn't call for a large number of exotic cars this time around, especially for its largest chase sequence. What we do get works, and the chase scenes themselves are quite well done, but those looking to be dazzled with dozens of memorable cars may feel slightly disappointed.

It's not going to be the best film you see this summer, but unlike many films from this genre Fast Five knows exactly what it is and runs with it. The film does drag during the more dramatic moments, but when the action starts the film moves and entertains at a decent clip. I'm not going to tell you to race out and see it, but those that do should get what they're expecting, or, like me, even a little more.

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