Rating: PG-13
Stars:
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Matt Schultze, Joaquim de Almeida, Elsa Pataky, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot
Writer:
Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Director:
Justin Lin
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
April 29, 2011

FAST FIVE, the fifth installment in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise has everything anyone could ask of this kind of film. It has Vin Diesel returning. It has Dwayne Johnson joining the cast. It has Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s character beating the expletive deleted out of each other. It has no sense of shame. All of this adds up to a movie that has just enough awareness of how crazy it is to be pretty entertaining throughout, assuming one’s tastes are capable of appreciating this.

A prologue shows us Diesel’s Dom Toretto being sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for his car-stealing activities. He is promptly broken out by his pal Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), once an FBI undercover agent and now a car thief himself, and Dom’s sister/Brian’s girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster). The trio travel to Rio, where the famous “one last job” results in an amazing action sequence, followed by near-disaster.

In the aftermath, on the run from powerful Brazilian crime kingpin Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), Dom and Brian decide the best defense is a good offense. To this end, they round up a lot of their old cohorts from previous FAST films to stage an OCEAN’S ELEVEN-like assault on Reyes’ fortune. However, not only do our heroes have to contend with Reyes’ goons and corrupt local cops, they find that steely, incorruptible FBI Special Agent Hobbs, (Johnson) has been sent after them. Hobbs wrongly believes Dom and Brian have killed DEA agents and won’t rest until he gets them, dead or alive.

No matter how many movie auto stunts you’ve seen, the early sequence that gets Dom, Brian and Mia into their movie-long predicament is genuinely stunning, topping itself again and again. The script by Chris Morgan smoothly integrates a lot of old friends – including a pair of sit-through-the-credits cameos – and comes up with a coherent (if impossible) caper amidst all the banter. He also manages to balance our sympathies pretty evenly when longtime protagonist Dom and new protagonist Hobbs throw down with each other.

Justin Lin, in his third directorial outing on a FAST film, does a great job with the pacing, so that the 130-minute feature speeds along with few slow stretches. Lin also takes great advantage of the Rio de Janeiro locations and truly the hang of how to present the vehicular scenes so that we feel we’re seeing something new and bracing.

After two movies of them butting heads, it turns out that Diesel and Walker have good chemistry playing friends. Johnson plays Hobbs perfectly down the middle, taking it seriously but also with an underlying playfulness, aware of the movie’s outlandishness and exactly the degree of machismo to display opposite Diesel’s tough guy Dom.

Often, at this point in a non-serialized franchise, installments can run out of gas. Not FAST FIVE, which is the best of the films so far (including the original). It’s quick, it has an actual enjoyable heist storyline and it’s good fun.

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