Hit the jump to see what the results of Mark Kermode and Barry Norman’s on/off romances in the late eighties thinks of the latest in the supercharged Fast and Furious series, Fast Five – or to give it the rather pointless full title – Fast And The Furious Five: Rio Heist.
Oh and we are issuing a spoiler warning – some plot spoilers, especially for the previous movies.
Though to be honest if you’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie you won’t really have much interest in this review anyways… also you fail at movie watching. Sure it’s a trashy series, but as guilty pleasure movies go you have enough there to satisfy… plus this one has The Rock in it! The Rock! CAN YOU SMELLLLLLLLLLL… etc…
Oh just hit the jump and read AHDVD’s words… You Monster!
You’d have to have been living under a rock to have not seen something of The Fast & The Furious movies during the last decade, either from the movies themselves or advertising they have achieved a cult status among many movie fans.
The original Fast & The Furious, Directed by Rob Cohen (Daylight), a relatively low-budgeted movie, was released in 2001. It was inspired by a newspaper article about street racing culture, taking that surrounding and the plot of one of my favourite action thrillers – Point Break – and replaced surfboards with cars. In it Brian O’Connor, a rookie cop played by Paul Walker, went undercover to uncover a group of racers led by Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, who were hi-jacking cargo trucks. Instead of being purely about the cars and the racing, it showed the characters of that world, and how the lines between law and justice can be blurred when undercover.
The movie was a huge success, raising the star profile of it’s leads Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and supporting cast including Jordana Brewster as Dominic’s sister Mia Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty and Matt Schulze as Vince (Toretto’s crew), and was followed by a sequel in 2003 – 2 Fast, 2 Furious, directed by John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) had a budget twice of the original movie. Though Diesel declined, Walker returned and was joined by Tyrese Gibson, Rapper Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, and an all new supporting cast for a continuation of now ex-cop and street racer Brian O’Conner’s story. This time O’Conner was coerced by police into going undercover running drugs for a cartel to expose their operation.
It seemed unlikely that The Fast & The Furious would see another sequel, partly because of a lukewarm reception to 2 Fast 2 Furious which, though not a failure, underperformed expectations and was considered vastly inferior to the first movie by many (myself included). A third movie was a financial gamble, and to bring back either Walker or Diesel in a lead role would be costly due to their raising status and the comparative pay cheques required.
It was decided to start the franchise anew and in 2006 The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift was released. Filmed with a budget close to the original movie, and with a relatively unknown cast & crew (Writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin), the setting moved to a new city and introduced us to a new style of racing.
Lucas Black, who had mostly worked in television, played the role of Sean Boswell, a teenager with a taste for racing who in order to avoid jail is forced to flee to Tokyo. There he is taken under the wing of Han (Sung Kang), a street racer with connections to the Japanese Yakuza, who teaches him drift racing.
Possibly intended to be straight to video, it was instead released theatrically due to good reception at test screenings and a small cameo re-shoot was added shortly before release to establish it’s connection to the previous movies. It went on to be a box office success both in the US and internationally, proving that Justin Lin was capable of doing further F&F movies.
In 2009 Chris Morgan and Justin Lin returned to the franchise along with Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez for Fast & Furious. Set before Tokyo Drift, it also had Sung Kang returning as Han.
The movie had Dominic Toretto out to avenge a murder by a drug cartel, running into now Federal Agent Brian O’Connor who is attempting to break into the same cartel’s operation as a driver. The two join forces to achieve their goals, but at movie’s end, despite an agreed deal in return for his help, Dominic is arrested and Brian is set to break him out of custody as he is transported by bus to prison.
Fast Five (a.k.a. The Fast & The Furious 5: Rio Heist) carries on directly from where Fast & Furious left off with Dominic on the prison bus and Brian and Mia breaking him out (in a surprisingly jaw dropping scene).
Later, Brian and Mia meet up with Vince in Rio. Low on cash and waiting for Dominic, they take a job to steal some high quality import cars aboard a moving train. Dominic joins them at the train but during the heist, the crew murders and frames them for the death of two U.S. Marshals. Escaping with the car that the crew specifically wanted, Dominic and Brian discover the car holds the location of over $100 million in drug money. With the head of the drug cartel putting a bounty on their heads, Brian know that the murders will jump them to the top of the most wanted list and make it impossible for them to get out of Brazil. Deciding to steal the drug money so they can buy their freedom, they call in some friends to assemble a crew. Meanwhile, a special task force led by Federal Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) lands in Brazil and begins hunting them.
While not being worthy of Oscar nomination The Fast & The Furious movies have been solidly entertaining in even their weakest moments. Fast Five is no exception. Returning writer Chris Morgan proved with the last movie that he can write well for these characters, and has evolved the series to still have some of that initial street racing element, but ultimately focusing on the characters which is what, at it’s core, this franchise has become about.
This movie is definitely an attempt to evolve the series and stop it becoming stale, with the main plot involving the planning of a massive scale heist, merging elements of a heist caper like Ocean’s Eleven while staging a crazy four-laner that evokes memories of a race from the first movie, and ending with one of the craziest adrenaline fuelled chases involving multiple police cars I have ever seen since 1980’s The Blues Brothers..
Adding to this are action sequences involving Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s task force and the drug cartel’s gunmen hunting our heroes through the back alleys and rooftops of Rio, making for some adrenaline fuelled action sequences that never feel jarring or too long and one quite violent (for a 12A rated movie) and lengthy fight between two characters in particular.
For the most part these action sequences are well-balanced with slower paced moments connecting them in between, but there is a slight lull in the middle – at one point it does seem as though we are being setup to see a normal street race, but then cuts immediately to after the race has taken place, most likely to trim the movie’s running time, as the movie clocks in at just over 2 hours (130 mins including end credits).
This running time could also have been reduced slightly by trimming the ending a little, as due to the large cast of characters, the movie suffers slightly from ‘Return of the King Syndrome’ with several endings trying to tie up the characters, although leaving the possibility open for further sequels.
The cast work together flawlessly in most of their scenes together and having characters from all previous movies return (Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot) adds a nice feeling of familiarity to anyone who has followed the series, though two supporting characters returning from the fourth movie that are there for continuity and comedic relief, provide it for some scenes, but for others it’s just more fat that could have been trimmed.
Performances are also solid from all the new cast members including Elsa Pataky as a determined cop, Joaquim de Almeida as the head of the drug cartel and in particular Dwayne Johnson’s Agent Hobbs – his character starting out as a no bullshit ‘just catching them because their name lands on my desk’ hard-ass, but believably evolving into something else. Rumours of a potential spin-off movie for his character have already begun to circulate.
This movie was a hell of a lot of fun, more than I ever thought possible, especially for a 5th movie. Followers and newbies to the series enjoy it, and action fans will eat it up. Justin Lin has pulled off an incredible job, and if they are to make another (as rumours are already suggesting) then I hope he will be involved.