Father Callahan is stunned that FAST FIVE is the best of the series!
Hey folks, Harry here and I've been a fan of this sometimes absurdly silly series - but the exploitive nature of the fast cars and crazy thrill crimes... it's fun fantasy. The one thing that is always a guarantee is that you leave the theater wanting to drive faster... which is probably a bad thing given most of us are shitty drivers as is... but here - you just want to break the sound barrier on land. Anyway - Father Callahan has seen FAST FIVE, which I honestly would prefer it titled FURIOUS FIVE... but anyway - here's the good padre's adrenaline pumped confession...
I was lucky enough to get into a screening of Fast Five last night in Chatsworth, and I'm kind of in shock. I don't know how they did it, but somehow, a movie with a 5 at the end of its title has turned out to be the best entry in the series (and no, Empire Strikes Back does not qualify here). Admittedly, my expectations were rather low coming in, but I honestly think I may have just seen the biggest movie of the year. This flick is insane.
I have to give Justin Lin credit. This is not a retread of any of the previous installments. The concept is essentially The Fugitive meets Ocean's Eleven. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster are on the run in Rio de Janeiro when the movie opens. Desperate for cash, our heroes take an "easy money" job stealing cars off of a moving train, which, of course, goes awry in spectacular fashion. It turns out the cars belong to a local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida, a.k.a. Spanish Phil Hartman), and the botched heist has put our heroes square in the drug lord's sights. Thanks to the deaths of a few DEA agents on the train, it has also alerted the attention of the U.S. Marshalls, who've been looking for Vin and Paul since Paul broke Vin out of that prison bus in a sequence that apparently wasn't ready to be shown to us last night...
And here's where the movie makes its smartest move. To track down our heroes, the Marshalls send in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, in what has to be his best role since Walking Tall. The guy is a total badass and super-charismatic. He's finally delivering on the promise of The Rundown. The moment he shows up, you know that it's only a matter of time before he throws down with Vin. And when that scene eventually happens, it's everything you hoped it would be.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Vin and Paul decide that it's time to do One Last Job (until this movie makes half-a-billion dollars, anyway...), stealing $100 million from Spanish Phil Hartman, before they can escape to a non-extradition island paradise and grow old together. But to do it, they're going to need a team. So here's brilliant move #2: bringing back everybody who's ever been in a Fast & Furious movie (with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez, for obvious reasons, and Eva Mendes, for not-so-obvious reasons) to help them pull off the job. Tyrese is freaking hilarious, and Ludacris makes for a perfect straight man to complement him. The super-cool Sung Kang returns from Tokyo Drift, and the movie slyly acknowledges that by including him, they keep pushing that movie off into the future. Rounding out the team are Gal Gadot, the Israeli model who helped out our heroes in part 4, and Tego Calderon and Don Omar, who make for a rather hilarious C3P0-and-R2D2-style team, speaking nary a word of English in the movie, but leaving everyone in the audience in stitches.
So that's the basic plot: The Rock hunting down Vin and Paul while our heroes attempt to steal a ton of money from the biggest drug lord in Rio. This, rather predictably, leads to a whole lot of action -- and damn good action at that. Lin has really hit his stride here, from the opening train sequence, to the Vin/Rock fight, to the finale, which might be the most insane action sequence ever put on film. You've seen a snippet of Paul and Vin dragging that bank vault through the streets of Rio in the movie's trailer. That's the scene, but I can't really prepare you for the amount of destruction that these guys unleash. (They're probably killing a whole lot of pedestrians along the way, but we don't see any of them die, so that makes it okay, right?)
The movie has about half-a-dozen action sequences in it, and they're all really solid, varying from James Bond-style spectacle to Rambo-style brutality (you'll know it when you see it) to the utter insanity of the finale. But what really makes the movie work is that they're pretty well spaced-out, so that you never feel assaulted (e.g.Transformers 2), and what's in-between them is genuinely good character stuff with a lot of funny comedy moments. Bizarrely, Fast Five, a movie for which no one was asking, turned out to probably be one of the best movies I'm going to see this year.
This is not to say that the movie doesn't have its flaws. The plot contains moments of almost-embarrassing stupidity (who knew you could get a handprint off of a cloth bikini bottom?), and the laws of physics hold no place here (if Vin Diesel's running toward a concrete wall, expect the concrete to give...). A scene early on in which our heroes are chained up and interrogated feels more in place with an early -'90s Jan Michael Vincent outing than with the substantially-more-impressive work on display throughout the remainder of the movie. But that's the thing: the movie works despite these flaws. You're having such a good time hanging out with these characters, watching them do all of the crazy shit that they're doing, that none of the stupidity ends up detracting.
Vin Diesel may never do Shakespeare, but he was born to play Dominic Toretto. (And he makes a pretty good Danny Ocean, too.) When you see him playing this character, you understand why he's a movie star. I've never thought much of Paul Walker as an actor, but he's got good chemistry with Vin, and it's great fun getting to see them share the screen together again. Add The Rock, Tyrese and a giant bank vault into the mix, and you've got one of the best rides of the summer. Fasten your seatbelts...