Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fast Five

I love dumb action movies.  When they're good, they're great (Predator).  When they're bad, they're often still pretty damn amusing (Alien vs. Predator: Requiem).  Unfortunately, though, this generation of actors hasn't had the wealth of stupid action heroes that the 80s and 90s were blessed with.  Sure, Jason Statham is willing to indulge my love of inane plots and ridiculous action, but what about the other promising heroes of yesteryear?  I thought Vin Diesel was going to be this generation's Stallone, but he refused to make immediate sequels to his biggest hits (The Fast and the Furious and xXx), and wound up in a Disney movie.  I thought Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would be our Schwarzenegger, but after a few crappy tries (The Scorpion King and Doom), he also went the Disney route.
Screen shot from Doom
What is wrong with these people?  Don't they know that I don't want to see them crack jokes?  I just want to see them try and punch something to the moon!  Is that too much to ask?

Fast Five answers my question with a reassuring smile and a sensuous back rub.  This, the fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, picks up right where Fast and Furious: Faster and Furiouser left off; Dom (Vin Diesel) is on a bus, heading to prison, while his buddy, Brian (Paul Walker), and sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), head a team of fancy car drivers, intent on jail-breaking him.  It's the opening scene, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are successful.  Breaking out of jail is kind of a big deal, though, so the trio head South to Rio de Janeiro.  Once there, they find themselves strapped for cash and take an ill-advised heist job.  They were hired to steal some cars from a train, and they were going to be working with some sleazy dudes.  It turns out that the dudes worked for drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim deAlmeida) and the cars on the train were actually his seized property; that means that the DEA is escorting the cars, too.  One thing leads to another and the good guys wind up stealing a car that has a computer chip with Reyes' drug operation basically programmed into it; in the process, though, the bad guys kill the DEA agents and place the blame on Dom and Brian.  That brings in some heavy hitters from America, like DSS agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), to bring in these rapid and angry hoodlums.  The rest of the film has the good guys on the run from the police and the drug dealers, and trying to figure out a way to turn the tables on Reyes.  Preferably, in a manner that would include cars.
...like ghost riding the whip

How's the acting in Fast Five?  Man, I'm hilarious.

Actually, the acting is about what you'd expect from a movie that is all about wrecking cars.  Vin Diesel won't win any awards for this one, but he acts tough and delivers some truly awful dialogue with enough conviction to actually sound reasonable.  This was the meanest character I have seen Dwayne Johnson play, but he was a serviceable mean good guy.  Basically, his job was to look enormous and frightening enough to make a musclehead (Diesel) look tiny, and he succeeded.
His bicep is the size of her waist
Paul Walker and Jordanna Brewster are both as uncharismatic as ever; luckily, their wooden performances happen in a movie where things go boom, so it doesn't really matter.  To put their acting in perspective, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges was more entertaining with less screen time.  Or maybe that "with" should be a "because."  Tyrese Gibson returns to the franchise as well; Tyrese is a terrible actor, but I enjoy watching him try to emote.  To his credit, he is better here than in 2 Fast 2 Furious.  Reggaeton singer Don Omar makes another appearance (he was in Fast and Furious) as one of Dominic's comic underlings; just like Ricky Ricardo back in the day, his gag is the fact that he speaks Spanish.  Hilarity ensues.  Gal Gadot also returns from the previous film, although I'm pretty sure she was a bad guy last time out.  Whatever.  Her job is to be hot.  Sung Kang also returns as the unusually laid-back illegal street racer; his character is still alive, which places the chronology of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (where he dies, two movies ago) into an even more questionable place in the space/time continuum.  Oh, and Eva Mendes has a quick cameo after the credits.  Some have compared her scene to Alec Baldwin's in Glengarry Glen Ross.  Man, I can't even type that without giggling.
Pictured above: enough acting to fill a tiny, tiny hat

Honestly, though, does any of that really matter?  These actors are just in place to provide a weak excuse for extended chase sequences.  Fast Five absolutely excels in this regard.  Who should get the credit for this?  Maybe director Justin Lin.  This is his third Furious movie, and each one is better than the last.  That doesn't take much, since Tokyo Drift is truly one of the worst movies I have ever seen, but the entertainment value of his past two films is undeniable.  Perhaps the credit should go to the stunt coordinators.  Whatever the case, Lin deserves some recognition for not letting too much character development get in the way of some pretty cool ridiculous stunts.

Waiting for a stunt, or emulating Pacino in Cruising?

Fans of the franchise should note that Fast Five maintains the homoerotic tension that made it famous.  That is why people went to see the first one, right?  This time around, it's not about Diesel and Walker, or Walker and Gibson; this movie is all about waiting for the fight scene where Diesel and The Rock would start squirming on the ground and "accidentally" start making out.  I won't spoil when or if that happens, but I think we all agree that it should.
This is what it sounds like when doves cry

As ridiculous as this movie is, I actually genuinely enjoyed Fast Five.  It's not trying to be anything but a big budget action movie, and it's a pretty solid one.  The plot, while still convoluted as all hell, makes more sense than any of the other F&F plots to date.  The stunts are pretty wicked awesome; I'm not a car guy, but some of these car stunts are spectacular.  Most importantly, the film delivers on the promise of having two of this generation's baldest and muscleiest men pound the crap out of each other.  My only complaint is that Diesel and The Rock never shook hands while flexing their biceps, like Carl Weathers and Ahhnuld did in Predator.  I won't go so far as to call this a great movie, but it is certainly fun to watch.  Fast Five is definitely the best and Furiousest film in the series to date.

 As an added bonus, here's a Vin Diesel sound board I stumbled across.  Personally, I prefer sound boards that focus on one or two words per button, but this one is still pretty fun to play with.

Vin Diesel (Sound Boards animation) | Watch more


  1. I wanted the same: BIG. DUMB. ACTION. (obviously) and was a little disappointed. First off, the climatic chase at the end is too much of the middle capitalized word (Was the bottom of the safe made of grease?). Secondly, there was far too much of the planning shit and not enough car chases or races, the latter of which is the backbone of the this franchise. Thirdly, I totally disagree that you are not a "car guy." Overall, the action did not make up for the movie's retardation for me. However, it was great to see The Rock and Vinny get back to what they were made for: dramatic acting in a period piece.

  2. It is true that one of the action scenes was completely car-free, but I thought there was plenty of car chases to go around. But how can you say that the safe sequence was too dumb in a BIG. DUMB. ACTION. movie? Did you need it to get bigger or to have more collateral damage? I thought that was the perfect amount of ridiculous action.

    It could definitely have been better, but I doubt that the dumbness can effectively be tuned down.

  3. As far as the climatic scene in the movie is concerned, the lack of collateral damage was terrible. Speeding through a heavy populated city attached to a giant safe means many people will die (especially when it goes on for as long as it did). This movie should have been rated R because that safe should have been red with the blood of many hapless Brasilians. Also, having some knowledge of cars means that there were only about a zillion thing wrong with that scene. These two factors made that scene no fun for me.

  4. I think you should still be able to get a PG-13 as long as no American's get killed

  5. @DOD: Excellent point. Besides, it's not like foreigners even bleed red. I am pretty sure they just turn to dust when overcome by American awesomeness.

    @NB: I think you just said that your main problem with Fast Five is its lack of realism. That is an interesting place to draw a line in the sand, friend.