Friday, April 29, 2011
Movie review: Fast Five
It's the sledgehammer of heist movies.
When I looked at the runtime for Fast Five, director Justin Lin's latest Fast/Furious outing, I did a double-take: 130 minutes? REALLY? For an action picture? I had visions of yawning and squirming in my seat, eyelids drooping, about 90 minutes into this thing.
But from its opening prison bus breakout, to its speeding train car robbery, to its jaw-dropping sledgehammer heist of a climax, there's nothing likely to have you nodding off or checking the clock during this latest (and quite possibly best) of the Fast franchise. Calling this film a blockbuster would be an exercise in meiosis.
(It would also be an apt literal description, given the final chase scene.)
Working with scripter Chris Morgan for the third time, Lin trots out all the street racing tropes (nitrous fuel-line injections; slo-mo, slinky lady struts set to driving hip hop beats; daring maneuvers past the point of any whiff of caution; testosterone-fueled slugfests and shootouts), ensuring that fans of the previous films will get what they expect. He adds to the mix a couple of interesting new characters and a whole lot of ingenious new ways to make us flinch in the face of the hurtling mass of oncoming metal objects.
These are the things that make it fast — and furious!
Assigned to track down Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) after his escape from a crashed prison transport is burly, surly FBI manhunter Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Hobbs brings along to Rio de Janeiro his own private army and a fleet of trucks which don't look like they'd get very good gas mileage — particularly the one that appears to be a Humvee on armor-plated steroids. Consider this but a small outward reminder of Hobbs' unabashedly confrontational attitude. When his Brazilian law enforcement liaison asks him what his agency might do to help in the search for the fugitive Toretto, Hobbs growls: "Stay out of my f**king way."
Hobbs does, however, have one request: he wants a female officer named Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky, smokin' hot!) assigned to his team. Because, he says, he likes her smile. Though the real reason is that Officer Neves lost her husband in the line of duty, and in Hobbs' mind this somehow makes her incorruptible. (O.K., whatever. At least she's smokin' hot!)
Aside from Johnson and Pataky, the rest of the cast are mostly returning veterans from various prior Fast/Furious shows, including:
Ex-undercover cop Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker), now allied with Dom
Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), now heavily allied (ahem!) with O'Connor
Han Lue (Sung Kang), street racer from the previous two Fast/Furious-es
Leo (Tego Calderon), from Fast & Furious
Gisele (Gal Gadot), from Fast & Furious
Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), from 2 Fast 2 Furious
Roman (Tyrese Gibson), from 2 Fast 2 Furious
Dom's brother Vince (Matt Schulze), who hasn't appeared in the franchise since the original The Fast and the Furious, and who plays a more or less pivotal role here
Doing villain duty, and doing it sneeringly well, are drug dealing mob leader Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, who just has to stand there to seem evil) and his chief henchman Zizi (Michael Irby). Zizi, amusingly, seems to have more lives than a teflon-coated cat, as bullets and other flying metal objects seem to flow around him like negatively charged ions.
So here's the deal, in terms of an ongoing plot-like entity around which the skidding and gun blasting and careening around corners action is structured: Dom and his crew are out to steal $100 million in greenbacks from the scattered cash houses maintained by Reyes as part of his drug dealing operation. To do this, they'll have to figure out how to get all the money at once — otherwise, Reyes might be expected to move all his ill-gotten eggs into one big basket, and then guard the ever-livin' frack out of that basket.
Meanwhile, Mia is keeping a wee little zygote of a secret from O'Connor, which means he lets her get away with stuff like jumping off the top of one favela onto the corrugated roof of another one about 100 feet below (as they're being chased by some of Reyes' bullet-spewing thugs). And Hobbs remains hot on the trail of Dom's crew, regardless of the fact that he has to keep engaging in full-auto firefights with Reyes' boys in the process.
When Vin Diesel and The Rock — certainly two of Hollywood's most musclebound tough guys — square off and start trading blows (as we knew all along they eventually would have to), it's like watching those two train locomotives crashing into each other in that black & white silent film clip. Only, they crash into each other over and over again, and there's nothing remotely silent about it: doorframes, windows, walls collapse under their onslaught.
Fast Five is corny and stupid and derivative as Hell, but that won't stop me from calling it the most entertaining movie I've seen so far this year. It's like railroading's biggest-ever train wreck — and I mean that in a good way.
NOTE: Be sure to stick around for the closing credits, which include a plot reveal involving what is sure to be the next installment in the series.
To find movie showtimes for Fast Five, click here.