Fast Five (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
On the way to being transferred to another prison, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who formerly led the FBI wanted list, is rescued by Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), an ex-cop, along with Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), his girlfriend. In order to settle a score, the trio hatch a plan to steal over a hundred million dollars from the most influential man in Rio de Janeiro.
“Fast Five,” directed by Justin Lin, comes out of its cage in full throttle. The cars are shiny and beautiful, make powerful vroom-vroom noises, and fly past the camera like lightning. It creates a fantasy: when cars violently hit a bus or a truck, the drivers are left without a scratch. After a successful mission, they yell in celebration, grin from ear to ear, and the camera capture the twinkle in their eyes right before the scene ends. It is enjoyable to watch the complicated and expensive action sequences.
However, the film’s rapid, heart-pounding pace comes to screeching halt somewhere in the middle. In order for Dominic, Brian, and Mia to pull off their biggest steal, they need help from specialists (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon, Don Omar), most of them familiar faces from “The Fast & the Furious” franchise. Initially, it seems promising. Gibson’s character is funny mainly because he talked a lot; his verbal sparring with Ludacris’ character shows brotherly affection. But it grows stale rather quickly because the familiar faces are not given much to do other than to hang out in the garage. Naturally, they have to put on their serious faces while they plan the heist. There are far too many speeches, outward (and awkward) promulgations of what is at stake, and somewhat predictable revelations.
I was more interested in FBI Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his determination to catch Toretto and company. He grabs my attention immediately because he seems like a real threat to the gang with giant muscles bulging (and glistening) in almost every scene he is in. The tired middle portion only shows promise when Hobbs and Toretto occupy the same frame as they trade nasty snarls and looks of disdain.
There is a subplot involving Toretto falling for a woman, Agent Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), in Hobbs’ task force which does not make sense whatsoever. There are suggestions that Elena’s husband is killed by Toretto, so how can she suddenly fall for the very same man who killed her spouse? Did she dislike her husband for any reason? We are not given this information. If anything, she should have been hungry for revenge.
The picture picks up in its last thirty minutes. When the two cars speed away with the giant metallic vault from the heavily guarded police station (never mind the physics), it is chaos in a good way. We are back to the fantasy: most cars are flattened like pancakes and a select few fly like birds, buildings are demolished by the extremely dense vault, and not one civilian is hurt. It is even mentioned that all of the cops who happen to be chasing our protagonists are corrupt. Therefore, it is okay for them to get hurt, implying that they deserve what is coming to them.
“Fast Five” could have been solid good fun if it isn’t painfully over two hours long. Take the first and last thirty minutes, add a more interesting middle section, preferably around twenty minutes, and there is a fantastic movie to be found in the wreckage.