I'm not coming around to FAST FIVE late like so many of my fellow critics that seem to have previously dismissed the entire ridiculously fun series. I have enjoyed thoroughly the entire franchise. I haven't thought they were brilliant works of cinema. But for a series birthed from a Roger Corman produced Drive-In feature... I've enjoyed the hell out of it. I see it as part of my genetic coding. I am programmed at my core to love hot fast cars, hot fast women... and sweaty hard men that will race you, beat you and get real goddamn intense with you.
The first was a perfect introduction to this HOT WHEELS-esque universe, the 2nd dropped its balls & became a hilarious spoof of testosterone that succeeds wildly as a gay buddy action flick - while desperately trying to deny that. The third was bugnuts insane - a Japanese High School Confidential with the most absurdly dangerous street racing that I've ever seen in my life, but because I adore High School flicks - it cracked me up incessantly. The fourth was an attempt to get the series away from the realm of video in which it was headed.
We were seriously looking at a film franchise headed to video. But that fourth film getting Walker & Diesel back together again - well that got a very large audience that has been growing with each release to get excited.
What is FAST FIVE? It is the AVENGERS of the FAST & THE FURIOUS Universe. Doesn't matter what we knew about those characters from their own films - here they were ASSEMBLED with a silly plot about stealing $100 million dollars from a drug dealing crime mafioso who apparently survived DESPERADO to rule all of Rio! In addition some genius somewhere decided to add into the equation a superhero that had not been a part of this burgeoning goliath of a series. And putting Dwayne Johnson in this series is simply a brilliant popcorn masterstroke.
I have personally been awaiting THE ROCK to become a movie star. He's officially been one by every other barometer, but to me... Dwayne has been perilously close to just being a would be star... but in FAST FIVE - he barrels into this series like it's his fucking movie. Fuck Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson will eat every scene he is in... and then, when you put Dwayne and Vin on screen... dude... It is Batman & Superman. Hulk & Thor. These two testicular titans just made each other bigger than either has ever been before. As I write this - the box office Nostradamuses are declaring this to be the biggest opening weekend for any Universal film in history, eclipsing JURASSIC PARK.
Think about that. This was a series that was continually defying the expectations of the "serious critics" and here it is playing stadiums like it was a fucking Spielberg flick. That's all kinds of awesome - and in the case of this flick. 100% deserved.
For FAST FIVE they took the absolute best elements of all the best 4. They took Vin & Paul & Jordana & Matt Schulze & Ludacris from the first. They added in Tyrese from the second. They brought Han back to life EMPIRE STRIKES BACK style (minus the cool actual bringing back part) from TOKYO DRIFT - and he's literally the soul of Han Solo. I'll swear to it. He's a bit of a scoundrel, little worn, effortlessly fucking cool. I love Sung Kang's Han. Then used the last film's cliffhanger to bounce forward into this one. Then they hire THOR's wife, Elsa Pataky - best known in my world as Laura from BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR - they give her a couple lines about being Israeli Mossad - next thing I know - she's this team's equivalent of Black Widow's Natasha. And I love that Natasha and Han Solo are fucking! LOVE IT! Oh - that's a spoiler.
Then there's Dwayne's Hobbs' team. They're all deadly badasses, except this one mourning widow come police officer to continue her husband's mission... and that's just so goddamn comic book, but it's kinda funny - she came from FAST & FURIOUS, the fourth film, but in this film - even though she is Gisele, the same actress Gal Gadot... I'm pretty damn sure she's kinda playing a totally different character - and goddamn she's great.
This feels like an epic comic book to me now. Changing genres, altering fates of characters, bringing in stars from outside the series, inventing your own new stars and building up the stars you've already made. It's practically fucking MARVEL how this film came to be.
Problems? The Dwayne Johnson versus Vin Diesel fight. It should have begun where it did, broke through walls all the way to Rio's beach as thousands of G-stringed Brazilian beauties beheld the titans of the modern cinematic popcorn arena kick a little sand on each other's sweaty hulking bodies.
Seriously. That's what I feel this movie was missing.
If you've seen the film, but left before the end scene that takes place about midway through the credits... Dude, Babe... get your ass back to the theater... DO NOT READ ANYTHING ELSE - but seriously - it and your reaction is worth another watch. My theater had emptied to about 20% capacity when it came on - and the audible gasp of HOLY SHIT was felt and all were instantly excited about FURIOUS SIX, what they better fucking call the next one. Yeah!
I love when a pet series really gets its shit together to fucking tromp the earth like it's the big new thing. Welcome aboard my late coming friends. Now you'll see why I've been excited. This is a series I'd love to get into double digits. Play fast and loose - become other genres, let the game get faster and more furious. And Justin Lin knows what to do with it!