by Ryan Hill
In the summer of 2001, “The Fast and The Furious,” a B-movie fully self-aware that it was about nothing more than fast cars and hot women, became a massive sleeper hit.
Now comes “Fast Five,” the fifth installment in a series that’s not only survived behind-the-scenes turmoil, but if “Five” is any indication, isn’t even close to running out of gas.
Picking up where “Fast & Furious” ended, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and his team break Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of prison and go on the run, all the way down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Short on cash and time, they hatch a scheme to steal $100 million from a drug dealer who tried to kill them during a botched car heist.
The heist allows Dominic and Brian to reunite with characters from the franchise’s previous offerings, including Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and even Matt Schulze, who played Vince in the first film.
The team pals around as they plan the heist, even though they have Dwayne Johnson hot on their trail as a bounty hunter for the FBI. Wearing a shirt that’s clearly a size or two too small, a shaved head and a scary goatee, Johnson oozes testosterone, especially when facing off with Diesel.
“Fast Five” is the first film in the series to not take itself too seriously, making it the funniest of the franchise. The film also shifts gears into heist-film territory, even if that territory is awfully similar to previous heist films “The Italian Job” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”
There’s no shortage of chases in “Fast Five,” be they on foot or through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The film’s climactic chase is the most exciting since Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” the most destructive since “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and even gives the chase in “The Blues Brothers” a run for its money in terms of sheer mayhem.
Justin Lin, who’s directed all of the “Fast” films since “Tokyo Drift,” displays a bubbling confidence behind the camera and is clearly improving with each film he makes, and while “Fast Five” may not win any new fans to the franchise, it’s gotten the summer movie season off to an action-packed bang. If the rest of the summer’s sequels can surpass expectations like this, we’re in for one of the most exciting summers in years.
Be sure to stay through the credits to find out which direction “Fast 6” will be taking the franchise.
Grade: 3/4 Stars