Fast Five (2011)

The fifth entry in producer Neal Moritz’s series of fast cars is Fast Five, a film that swings things in a different direction. It could be argued that Fast & Furious moves away from the street-racing foundation and into crime drama territory, but Fast Five sets this with very, very little racing stuff and more gunfire and fisticuffs.

Fast Five is another blockbuster movie that is the creation of the mass production studio system that plans for sequels, reboots and prequels way in advance. The goal is to transport the series into new terrain. According to producers and executives, the “car culture” of the series had put a “ceiling” on those willing to see the pictures.

Fast Five picks up exactly where Fast & Furious left off, with Dominic (Vin Diesel) on his way to prison and Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) set to spring him out. After a daring rescue that defies physics, the band gets together and runs off to Brazil to dodge the fuzz. Mia and Brian are happy together and Dom is the third wheel until, together with Vince (Matt Schulze), they come up with a plan to rob a train.

This puts the trio in the sights of Brazilian drug dealers and Diplomatic Security Service agent and tight shirt enthusiast Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Our heroes enlist the help of their friends, including some characters from previous films, and plot a bold heist to stick it to drug lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) while ducking Hobbs’ group.

Fast Five is an average action movie, although the final sequence is exciting and there are some neat character interactions. But the movie runs long and patchy, with segments of sentimentality sandwiched between action and comedy sequences. Lin’s pacing leaves a lot to be desired, although improvements have been made in how the action scenes come across.

The racing is deliberately left on the sidelines, with the procurement of a key vehicle (sort of) left out in favour of more exposition. The effort to move the series to something broader has removed what was distinctive about it, unfortunately, and the car culture that seemed so brisk earlier in the series is lost.

For all its logical discrepancies and stupidity, Fast Five is a forthright action movie that appears to take itself very seriously. As much as that has been commended by some critics, the uniqueness of the series is now lost. Make no mistake, there are some good sequences. The face-off between Diesel and Johnson is forceful and fun. The eventual heist is amusing but hardly unique.

In between the opportune action is a mound of After School Special-style character development, with key revelations made to inflict its boring concept of family and friendship on the audience. The good guys stay together through thick and thin, even if they are daring thieves with no regard for basic traffic laws, and the bad guys run drugs and kill people.

Moritz’s series is becoming a lot like a long-running television series. Characters come and go (but are never really gone) and relationships begin and end. There’s a “bromance” and some humour by way of the typical characters, but nothing is remarkable. And without its B-movie appeal, Fast Five is just another chapter in just another undistinguished studio product of an action series.


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