Mission in-freaking-sanity? Oh yes it is! Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and a gaggle of supporting characters unite under one roof to pull one big-ass feat of wonder in “Fast Five,” the fourth sequel in the mega-popular “Fast And The Furious” series. This newest entry ups the ante on nearly all cylinders: the cars are faster, the action is louder and the chase sequences defy any and every law of physics that they stumble upon. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see HOW they obtain said faster cars. The film CHALLENGES you not to say “wow, THAT sure was implausible.”
Not that I knock the film for its blatant disregard to anything resembling the real world. You kinda have to suspend your disbelief to get any kind of entertainment value from it. This is what I like to call a critic-proof film. For all you noobs out there unfamiliar with the term, it means that “Fast Five” is going to make several boatloads of money regardless of whether or not critics dog-pile on it. The most infamous example of the critic-proof film was “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen,” which grossed about $401 million more than I think it actually deserved.
On the run from the hard-boiled DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in Rio de Janiero, Dom and Brian along with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) assemble a great team of allies including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot. Their plan: to overthrow the corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and pocket his cold hard cash in the process. Which brings us to a sequence in which Dom and Brian drag a large vault full of valuables through the mysteriously vacant streets of Rio using only their cars and some steel wire. And that is not even the most questionable part: as far as the audience knows, nobody gets hurt throughout any of this.
While the series has a cosmic legion of devoted followers, I myself have never been one for the street racing mayhem. Ever since the beginning, I have always looked at this as a bunch of macho dudes beating their chests over who has the faster car, with an occasional squabble or gunfight thrown into the mix in the scarce event that the male testosterone level wasn’t high enough. It is not that I don’t understand “F&F’s” appeal or look down on others who do love the series. Cars just ain’t my strong suit.
Maybe that is the reason why I like this one a little bit more than its predecessors. Sure, the dialogue is still beyond corny and the characters are about as fleshed out as a mahogany plank, but at least this time I actually was kind of intrigued with what was going on. The cars are not the stars so much as what they work in service of accomplishing. It really is a heist movie for the adrenaline junkie crowd and it turns out to be closer to the carsploitation B-movie that the first “F&F” should have been.
Justin Lin has been in the director’s chair for the films ever since the third installment, 2006’s “Tokyo Drift.” The man can no doubt handle his action better than most directors and understands what the target audience will eat up. He is able to get the audience wrapped up in a car chase no matter how improbable it is on the surface. The fact that the movie works to be unmitigated eye candy is both the biggest strength and weakness. On one hand, the nice cars and attractive actors and actresses prevent certain scenes from utter failure. On the other hand, it does not offer very much in terms of substance and I will have likely forgotten about the film a year from now.
To be fair, I found “Fast Five” to be infinitely more entertaining than the four prior titles and it still supplies the die-hard fans with something sweet to nibble on. The title basically says it all: it is fast, but it surprisingly did not have me walking away furiously. I cannot quite go full-on thumbs up mode simply because there are innumerable imperfections, but I do have to admire it in some respects. I have not even seen the movies that are destined to come out this year and I can already tell that “Fast Five” is a strong candidate for the most preposterous I will see.