Movie Review: Fast Five

By Matthew Huntley

May 9, 2011

If I shoot him in the back right now, the franchise can be mine.

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When it comes to mindless action movies, drug dealers have always gotten a bad rap. They are forever viewed as the ultimate villain, coldhearted and merciless, with a seemingly endless supply of wealth and expensive suits. It seems their sole purpose is to be the bad guy, which conveniently gives the good guys carte blanche to do everything and anything to bring them down, no matter what it takes.

That’s how the heroes, or anti-heroes, of Fast Five justify causing millions of dollars in property damage and almost killing hundreds of innocent people—it’s all in the name of taking down Rio de Janeiro’s reigning drug lord. Notice I wrote “almost kill,” since there’s no way any innocent person would die in this movie unless they were a major character or their death served a plot device. After all, this isn’t a gritty, realistic look at Rio’s drug trade; it’s an absurd, over-the-top action movie, and in order for us to root for the heroes, we have to believe they’re good guys at heart who wouldn’t harm a soul, unless, of course, that soul belongs to a drug dealer.


As an action movie, Fast Five is pretty standard, at least when it comes to plot and character development, but it’s delivered with such ample energy and enthusiasm, you can’t help but go along for the ride. Fans of this unsinkable, decade-old series will have little cause for complaint. For them, the movie has everything they want: hot cars, hot babes, an inordinate amount of testosterone, and an auto-pilot plot (with lots of embarrassingly corny dialogue).

None of these observations are new to the Fast and the Furious movies, and even though they were expected and come with the territory, I still wasn’t sure this fifth installment could live up to even the lowest bar set by its predecessors. Consider some of the dialogue. When FBI agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) gets word on the location of the three fugitives from the last movie - Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel), his sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster), and ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) - a fellow agent tells him there’s good news and bad news, to which Hobbs says, “Well you always know I like to eat my dessert first.” Shortly after, he says, “Okay, give me my veggies.” Ouch.

But the movie started to gain momentum once the actual plot kicked in, which is merely a derivation of Ocean’s Eleven as all the gear heads from the first four movies unite to steal $100 million from Rio’s most dangerous drug dealer (Joaquim de Almeida). And just like the Ocean’s movies, each man and woman has a specialty to ensure everything more or less goes according to plan, culminating in an outrageously fast, loud, albeit coherent, chase sequences involving an oversized safe being pulled across the city.

As long as we accept that logic and physics, not to mention intelligence, won’t play a role in this movie, and as long as the filmmakers don’t pretend like they do, it works sensationally as popcorn entertainment. And, surprisingly, it’s the one entry in the series that even non-fans might be wise to check out. It has the broadest appeal, with the best stunts, the most humor and the most emotion, all handled commendably by director Justin Lin, who keeps things moving.

If it’s a rush and thrills you seek, then Fast Five is one to see, and after the much-maligned Fast and Furious (2009), it gives the franchise an opportunity to end on a high note, both critically and commercially. But of course, the ending hints at another sequel. Can it really keep going? How many times can Vin Diesel’s character say “one last job” before he really means it? Before the actors and studio shoot themselves in the foot, they should really follow the lead of the characters and consider the lyrics of that old Steve Miller song. I believe it goes, “Go on, take the money and run.”



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