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Movie Review: Fast Five (PG-13)


‘Fast Five’ has cars, girls and the ongoing bromance between heroes Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto. What else do you need?

By: Roxana Hadadi

Here are my thoughts on “Fast Five”: I will see this movie at least two more times in the theater, even though IMAX ticket prices make my bank account feel pathetic. I will watch this movie every time it’s on HBO or Starz or some other premium channel. I will watch this movie every time it’s on basic cable. I will watch this movie even if it’s on regular broadcast TV. You’ve captured my heart, “The Fast and the Furious” film series, now take my money! Take it!

As someone who gets paid to wade through the dozens of movies that get released each year, I should be embarrassed to love “The Fast and the Furious” films. I should be stoned to death by other movie reviewers, most of whom hate the franchise (check Rotten Tomatoes for proof: the original 2001 movie has a 52 percent rating; 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious” has 36 percent; 2006’s “Tokyo Drift” has 35 percent and 2009’s “Fast & Furious” has 29 percent), for my unabashed affection for the flicks starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel. In terms of real character development, intelligent dialogue and thought-provoking plots, “The Fast and the Furious” movies are not good. One time an Oscar statue got close to where one of these movies was being filmed and it died. Straight up died.

But still, my love gushes forth – and “Fast Five,” the latest flick in the franchise that will definitely have a sixth film (stay in your seat until after the credits are done and you’ll see what I mean) and is rumored to get a seventh, is so deserving. The pleasantly wonderful thing about these movies is that they don’t pretend to be something they’re not – they’re not like Michael Bay’s “Transformers” remakes, which lost sight of the original ‘80s cartoon for laughably inappropriate connections to our modern-day, post-Sept. 11 climate, and they’re not exasperatingly convoluted, as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are. I get that “Pirates” is a series of movies based on an amusement park ride, but still. Terrible.

Instead, “Fast Five” does exactly right what the franchise’s previous films have done exactly right: Race scenes, chase scenes, threatening-but-good-hearted guys, threatening-and-of-course-evil guys, dopey-but-nice-guys and, most obviously, hot girls. These are not movies that will broaden your mind, but they will make you cheer with the person next to you when a specific heist goes off just right, or when the hot girl kisses the dopey-but-good-guy, or another hot girl kisses the threatening-but-good-hearted guy. Audience camaraderie, meet your makers: director Jason Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan, who worked together on “Tokyo Drift” and “Fast & Furious,” too.

“Fast Five” picks up exactly where “Fast & Furious” left off: with reunited lovers Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewser) teaming up with friends Tego (Tego Calderon) and Rico (Don Omar) to save Dominic Toretto, Mia’s brother (Vin Diesel), from going to prison. After flipping over the prison bus and whisking away Dom, the fugitives split up and then meet again in Brazil, where they encounter Vince (Matt Schulze), an old family friend of Dom and Mia (who appeared in the first film; the series so far chronologically goes, “The Fast and the Furious,” “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Fast & Furious,” “Fast Five” and “Tokyo Drift”). After he butted heads with then-undercover-cop Brian, who now has abandoned his life within the law, Vince made his way down to South America and is respected among the favela neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Together with Vince, Brian, Mia and Dom plan a job – stealing cars off a moving train – that will set them up with enough money to make ends meet.

But as we’ve seen in “Heat,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels and basically any other film about stealing stuff, there’s no such thing as “one last job” – and when things go wrong during the train heist, Brian, Mia and Dom don’t know who to trust. Did Vince double-cross them? Was it the other guys helping with the job, hired guns of corrupt Brazilian tycoon Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), planning to frame them from the start? And how does federal agent Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), tasked with tracking down Brian, Mia and Dom, fit into the mix? Brian describes him as “Old Testament,” really into the “wrath of God,” but can Hobbs learn that maybe his mission to capture the three isn’t all that matters?

There are tons of other players, too – numerous characters from other films in the series are brought on board, like Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) from “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Han (Sung Kang) from “Tokyo Drift” and “Fast Five” and Gisele (Gal Gadot) from “Fast Five” – and some new people are written in, like police officer Elena (Elsa Pataky), who is torn between capturing Dom and fighting against Reyes’ control over the favelas. Are the familiar characters further developed? Kind of. An exchange between Brian and Dom about their childhoods gives us more insight about how each strayed into a life of crime; Roman and Tej provide much of the humor with their constant ribbing; Han and Gisele have good chemistry, each nonchalantly cool in their own slick way; and Mia is more than just a pretty face here, showing off fine driving skills and solid tactical smarts. The three female leads don’t entirely fill the void left by Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s tough and snarky girlfriend who was murdered in “Fast & Furious,” but they hold their own.

If you were expecting anyone to spout Shakespeare, you are at the wrong movie. But elaborately choreographed chase scenes? Got it. Great standoffs between Dom and Hobbs, including one brawny fight that manages to show how Dom has matured over the years? Got it. An ongoing bromance between Dom and Brian? Duh, you know what I’m going to say by now.

The film is longer than you’d expect, clocking in at 130 minutes, and it does drag a bit in the middle as the crew plans a huge heist: they find problems with their plan, then go out to solve them, then find more problems, then try to solve those. The formulaic nature of that middle section isn’t great, and neither are some of the plot elements the film swipes from other genre classics like “Heat” and the “Ocean’s” series. But ultimately “Fast Five” picks up enough speed and is ballsy enough for a thrilling conclusion that sets things up nicely for an inevitable sequel.

Though rated PG-13, “Fast Five” should be easy to handle for most teens: There’s cursing and lots of explosions and gunfights, with tons of nameless and faceless villains who get gunned down, but for the most part those scenes aren’t gory or gratuitously bloody. The fight between Dom and Hobbs is the most intense, but while full of thrown punches and slammed bodies, it’s ultimately all loud sound effects and shattered glass; be warned, however, that there is one saddening death. There’s also some sexual content, with girls in skimpy Brazilian bikinis and some making out between couples.

Could “Fast Five” have focused more on the poverty in the favelas, more on the idea of Brian and Dom as Robin Hood-like figures, more on the destructive corruption that plagues so much of South America? But to spend too much time on those elements would give this film too much to think about – and with “Fast Five,” it’s not about that. None of “The Fast and the Furious” films have ever been about that. And if you don’t understand why they’re great regardless, then I’m not sure why you’ve read this far into this review. I mean, honestly.

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