Summer action films begin as the fifth installment of the Fast and Furious Franchise hits cinemas, retitled Fast And Furious 5: Rio Heist, but really called Fast Five. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster are back for another round, taking in Chris Bridges and Tyrese Gibson from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Sung Kang from Tokyo Drift and adding Dwayne Johnson into the mix too, but can this ultimate mix of previous Fast and Furious films freshen a languishing franchise?
The short answer is yes. Rio Heist kick starts with a train robbery of three cars, guns, punching, explosions and lots of noise, a perfect microcosm of the entire film. Our heroes, Dom (Diesel), Brian (Walker and Mia (Brewster) are laying low in Rio de Janeiro after escaping life sentences in America, and trying to make ends meet with quick payday jobs, until things go south and the crime lord of Rio’s favelas, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), finds his car and information alluding to his payment deliveries are stolen from him, and vows to get it back, no matter who gets in the way. When DEA agent Hobbs (Johnson) flies in to Brazil to set up a strike team to also go after our protagonists, it seems that everything is getting worse. And how do our heroes put a stop to everything? They gather up a team of the best from the films previous to help steal all the money from Reyes and liberate Rio from his tyranny. Political corruption meets The Italian Job in a Mexican Standoff, and very few car sequences too.
Fast Five, in fact, side-steps the obvious nature of throwing in 5 races in the 130 minute runtime to keep audiences in check, by instead having a constant level of fun infused into the planning segments of the big heist at the end. At one point the two leads go to get a faster car and set up a race with an old friend, only for the film to cut to the two returning to base with a new car, never once showing the race, a brave and bold step, acknowledging how redundant the scene would have been, and with the long runtime, it’s surprisingly economic with what the audience sees. The plot runs long at the start, some 50 minutes before the heist plan begins to commence, however it never feels long, in fact the film is fast, furious too, especially in it’s sound mix, and of course it’s really quite stupid. Plotholes appear as often as someone utters a line of dialogue to do with why they are stealing $100m, and Dwayne Johnson punches in with lots of yelling ludicrous dialogue straight out of the Hollywood action cliché screenplay database, but with such vigour that it kind of works.
The film looks fantastic, despite Justin Lin’s often blurriness towards action sequences, the stunts seem as practical as possible, including the big Diesel Johnson brawl which is as visceral as it is entertaining. The film is goofy as hell, but with a charm that makes every moment of inept stupidity slide by as part of the expected nature for this kind of film. In fact Chris Bridges has the line “If we’re gonna do this heist, we’re gonna need invisible cars” to which Diesel responds with “I know a guy”. This film offers simple conclusions to complex technical dilemmas with such a swift line of dialogue delivered in a way only xXx‘s Vin Diesel could, and the film works. Sure Fast Five is a big budget action blockbuster with less brains than it has female characters (3), but it still manages to be an easy watch and a surprisingly good use of two hours, even in the sweltering early summer heat, if the rest of the season can beat Fast Five, 2011 is going to be a great year.