DVD Review: Despite its loud, proud, and spectacular disregard for things like plot, character motivation, and the laws of physics, Fast Five revs up the most fun cinematic stupidity we’ve had since… well, 2009′s Fast and Furious.
On the evolutionary curve of Big Dumb Hollywood Blockbusters, director Justin Lin (F&F 3: Tokyo Drift, F&F 4) and his high-octane gang of gear heads are getting steadily better at embracing the Fast and Furious franchise’s increasing levels of silliness and at wringing self-aware fun out of all the super-macho moronic posturing and gravity defying, ass-over-teakettle stunts.
This time we’re in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Paul Walker’s one-time FBI agent, his squeeze (Jordana Brewster), and his partner in speed and her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) are on the lam. They’re also putting together a top-notch team of thieves, including old pals such as Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges from F&F2, Matt Schulze from F&F1, Sung Kang from F&F 3&4, and Gal Gadot from F&F4.
The multiculturally sexy crew is needed because this installment is not as much about car racing as it’s an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist flick, full of complicated plots and plans. The F&F team goes at every theft in the hardest possible manner, using winches, hoists, hydraulic lifts, high-speed ramps, and just about everything short of a particle collider and a space shuttle to pull off their elaborate thefts.
Aside from the Rio favela backdrop, the big change here is the addition of the always-welcome Dwayne Johnson as a U.S. DEA agent hot on the trail of Dom & Co. With a pretty Brazilian cop (Elsa Pataky) in tow, his head shaved and sweating, and a big fuzzy black beard that says “dedicated and dangerous, but with a complex code of honor,” Johnson charges forward with the kind of single-minded momentum we know will eventually bring him skull to skull in a glorious bald, beady eyed glare-off with Diesel’s Dom.
Strutting along with those pumped up, tank-topped arms, Diesel acts with 100% of his forehead—his noggin looks like a rugby ball swallowed an over-inflated soccer ball. But the actor has also learned not to take himself or his films so seriously. Dom’s always had a charming twinkle in his eye and a crooked grin, but in Fast Five Diesel and Johnson share the knowing winks of actors in on the joke–watching them bash cartoon heads is a red-meat, cheap-beer delight.
(And here and in last year’s Takers, Paul Walker has settled into an easy, likable groove—with age, what once seemed stiffly bland now plays on-screen as an almost cool, wizened–dare we say “Eastwoody”–stoicism.)
Lin directs all this with an admirably sure hand for outrageously enjoyable destruction and over-cooked melodrama, all played with a self-mocking swagger. By the time our heroes are dragging a multi-ton steel vault at high speeds through the streets of Rio, smashing to bits cars and buildings (but apparently never any innocent bystanders) even Wile E. Coyote is saying, “Oh, no frickin’ way.”
But that’s the F&F franchise in a 10-ton nutshell: big, loud, smashy and crashy and not about to be slowed down by pesky things like the laws of physics or the effects of blunt-force trauma.
Fast Five makes (and then breaks) its own rules, but amid all the cars-and-guns chaos the franchise turns its weaknesses into strengths. Plot makes no sense? It’s not supposed to—enjoy! Characters overturn heartfelt credos and motivations for the sake of Big Movie Moments? That’s the soapy joy of it! You could never survive a Butch & Sundance leap into a river gorge from a plummeting convertible or outrun the cops while pulling a giant vault behind you?
Of course not, but you probably never thought you’d have this much raw lizard-brain fun watching someone else do it.