The Review: Can it really be ten years since Rob Cohen gave us The Fast And The Furious? It seems so long ago now that it’s difficult to remember what it was all about all those years ago, and as the series has gone on it’s become more and more removed from those humble beginnings. Sorry, did I say humble? I meant to say outlandish, garish and injected directly into your eyeballs. Very much style over substance, it did see Vin Diesel at the height of his early career (and, for that matter, Paul Walker, but since his career has consisted almost entirely of these movies, that’s maybe a little misleading), and they seemed to be heading the way of almost every other diminishing returns franchise. Then something strange happened: Justin Lin, director of the third movie in the series, also got the fourth and persuaded both Walker and Diesel to return for the first time together since the original, he widened the scope of the movie and took it away from street racing a little, and it romped to the biggest opening weekend in April in US box office history, and the biggest take of the franchise. So Fast Five does what every good big budget sequel does, and takes those successful elements and cranks them up a couple of notches.
This time, then, rather than just Walker and Diesel (and Jordana Brewster as Walker’s girlfriend and Diesel’s sister), pretty much everyone who’s had a speaking part and is still alive among the good guys is back. Indeed, death is not an obstacle, as one of the crew died in the third outing, Tokyo Drift, making this a sequel to the prequel to that film. Still paying attention? Well don’t worry, the movie opens directly where the fourth one finished, just in case you’ve forgotten (I had) and from there the pace doesn’t let up, at least for the first half an hour or so. Now on the same team again, Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto attempt to pull a job in Brazil, which goes wrong, so to get the bad guys and the cops off their backs they attempt one last job, which requires the intervention of the whole crew. But remember that job before the last job that went wrong? That’s attracted the attention of the Feds, and when they want someone caught (not that often, it would seem), there’s only one man they call for.
Special Agent Brian Hobbs. Better known to us, of course, as Dwayne Johnson, and even better known as The Rock. The testosterone is ramped up to hitherto unprecedented and frankly dangerous levels, and most of the middle of the movie consists of planning, scheming and a fair bit of posturing. The series has survived and thrived by evolving, so street racing is almost now an afterthought – you get one, and even that’s glossed over fairly quickly, and a second happens off-screen – and Fast Five comes over as the mutant love-child of Heat and Ocean’s Eleven, set in Rio. The cop / criminal face-off in which no-one gets arrested, the massively weighty cast, and even a high-powered shoot-out in the favelas all call to mind a dumbed-down version of Michael Mann’s finest, but the nature of the heist itself, some tricky reversals and the dialogue all give mind to a similarly low rent version of Steven Soderbergh’s movies.
Yes, the dialogue. Let’s test your level of potential interest for Fast Five. If quotes such as “This just went from Mission: Impossible to Mission: In-freakin’-sanity” or “Sexy legs, baby, what time do they open?”, at which point said sexy legs owner pulls a gun on their admirer, don’t put a giant smile on your face at the sheer dumb bravado of it all, then this is not the film for you. Similarly, if you’re not impressed by films that defy the laws of physics, ignore the fact that to pull this job, our heroes have a seemingly limitless supply of cash or that people swap sides almost at will, then this also isn’t the film for you. But if you’re looking for one of the most enjoyably simple, ridiculously hyped action movies of this or any other summer, then step right in. There’s a ten minute sequence around an hour and a half in where it all takes itself far too seriously, but other than that this will slap a big cheesy grin on your face and keep it there right through to the extended finale and a credits sequence that twists the franchise into the shape ready for its next inevitable outing. Fast Five features some of the most wanton destruction ever committed to celluloid, and if you’re looking for a way to disengage your brain ready for the summer season, then look no further.
Why see it at the cinema: The action scenes are what modern cinemas were made for, with director Lin making the finale look like Bad Boys 2 times The Blues Brothers in terms of carnage, and there’s plenty of sweeping vistas to make the most of the screen. It’s also the closest to a party atmosphere you’ll get in the cinema this early in the summer.
The Score: 7/10