When Wrestlers Act: Fast Five (2011)

Justin Lin

Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker - Brian O'Conner
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - Luke Hobbs
Tyrese Gibson - Roman Pearce
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges - Tej Parker
Matt Schulze - Vince
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Gal Gadot - Gisele Yashar
Joaquim de Almeida - Hernan Reyes
Elsa Pataky - Elena Neves
Tego Calderon - Leo Tego
Don Omar - Omar Santos
Michael Irby - Zizi

Genre - Action/Crime

Running Time - 132 Minutes

The film picks up during the final moments of 2009's FAST & FURIOUS. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is on a prison bus, as he's been sentenced to serve 20 years in prison for his crimes. However, former FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Dom's sister [and Brian's girlfriend] Mia (Jordana Brewster) manage to stop the bus and make it crash. All the criminals in the bus are accounted for, except for Dom. This makes Dom, Brian, and Mia wanted fugitives.

The trio decide to hide out in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, looking for ways to make money to buy their freedom. Reuniting with Vince (
Matt Schulze from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS), the trio decide to help Vince and some local criminals steal three very valuable cars from a moving train, which also seems to be carrying DEA agents as passengers. When Dom realizes that the local criminals seem to be using his crew and that things aren't on the up and up, he tells his gang to steal the most valuable car - leading to violent conflict between the gang and the local criminal world.

Once they're in the clear, they take the car apart - finding a memory chip that has important information on a local business named Hernan Reyes (
Joaquim de Almeida). The information includes all the cash Reyes has saved up [about $100 million] and where the money is located. Wanting this money, Dom and Brian gather up their respective buddies from previous installments to create a super group of criminals ready to perform a huge heist. What they don't realize is that a DSS agent named Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is also hunting them down, wanting all of them to pay for their crimes.


A much more mature cast. FAST FIVE is considered the best film in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, and I definitely agree. While the scenerios are still preposterous and unrealistic, at least this sequel executes them in a way that you can suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride without a care. This is helped by a game cast who has matured quite a deal since the previous installments.

Vin Diesel is still great as Dom. He shows more emotion than he did in the previous film, and gets to do cool stunts with Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson. In fact, Dom's fight with Johnson is one of the film's highlights. Diesel carries a presence that makes him stand out amongst a huge cast, letting his charisma shine through easily. Paul Walker is much improved here as Brian O'Conner. He has chemistry with everyone around him, and seems more capable in carrying scenes on his own. He also handles the hand-to-hand combat scenes pretty well, making FAST FIVE his best film in the franchise. Jordana Brewster is very good as Mia, and gets to do more here than she has done in the other films. She's the eyes of the operation, making her more than just the sister and girlfriend stereotype.

Returning to the franchise are Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schultz, Tego Calderon, and Don Omar - bringing every installment of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS into one giant action movie. They all play their roles well, but there are some standouts. It's great to see Schultz again, as I liked him a lot in the first film. His story comes full circle here, and Schultz does a good job replaying his angst against Brian over "taking his spot" in more ways than one. Gibson and Ludacris are the comic relief of the crew. Gibson, while still a bit over-the-top, is more subtle than he was in 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. And Ludacris is more quiet in his humor, making the two balance each other quite well with the comedy. Kang and Gadot have cute chemistry as Han and Gisele. And Calderon and Omar bring some hijinks in their roles.

Joaquim de Almeida and Michael Irby are pretty decent as the villains. They're probably the most fleshed out villains in the franchise so far, next to Takashi from TOKYO DRIFT. We also get a cool cameo from Eva Mendes, which helps lead the film into FAST AND FURIOUS 6.

But the highlight has to go to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Luke Hobbs. Just a total bad ass and ass kicker from beginning to end. Not only does he bring the funny, but he's extremely charismatic and a huge presence. His scenes with Diesel are great and it makes you want to see more interaction between the two. Johnson's addition added something really great to the franchise. Honestly, he should be a distraction amongst a large group of actors. But he makes the franchise feel new again with his role, and gives the other actors a new vigor as Johnson is someone great to play off.

I really enjoy this cast and I'm glad most have returned for FAST AND FURIOUS 6. You can tell they really enjoy doing these films together, which makes it fun for us to watch. They're all in on the joke, yet take the material seriously. You gotta respect actors who are proud to be starring in action fluff.

- A more adult, and tighter, screenplay. Normally in fifth installments, the story goes to crap. The fifth film in a series usually plays out as a shadow of everything that had come before it, making us wish they would put the franchise out of its misery. But surprisingly, FAST FIVE actually gives the franchise a new life and a fresher perspective than ever thought possible. Who would have thought that this franchise would actually IMPROVE as it continued?

FAST FIVE is a heist film, so it's OCEAN'S ELEVEN with cars. But it works more than it should, as it gives the film a focus that it never really had before. The film isn't deep, but it doesn't need to be. There's so much going on in terms of the characters interacting with each other, that you're never bored. You understand their motivations for doing this and root them on as they plan out their strategy and their escape once they complete their goal. In fact, I think FAST FIVE has the best characterization out of all the films. You never question why these people have collected themselves into performing this heist. Sure, they'll share $100 million if they achieve their goal. But it's because they genuinely enjoy each other's company, feeling like a family for once. I felt this aspect of the story in the previous films felt kind of forced or coincidental. But it truly feels natural here, and it puts a smile on your face as they banter and do really cool things together for a common goal. Each person gets the spotlight within the story, proving their place on the team. They agree. They argue. They share laughs. They share teams. And none of it feels like a plot device. Maybe we needed cheesy films before this one to get to this point in the franchise. I'm just glad these characters are presented as normal people rather than wannabes trying to be cool.

And for once in the franchise, I actually felt that these main characters were fugitives from the law. With the addition of Luke Hobbs and more elaborate action sequences set up in the script, FAST FIVE feels like a chase movie [something I think the other films tried to accomplished, but never took the time to focus on]. No one's lying to each other. No one's trying to be someone they're not. Everything that happens in this film is very crystal clear. The local bad guys want to kill Dom and his gang. Luke Hobbs and his crew want to capture Dom and his gang. And Dom and his gang know this and still plan out their mission. And the way the heist is added into the chase aspect of the film is pretty nicely done as well, as both themes get enough time to resonate to the audience.

It's amazing that I can actually compliment the storytelling in a FAST AND FURIOUS film. But FAST FIVE deserves it, as things always happen and each act never feels dull or out of place. I liked the dialogue. I liked how the characters behaved and spoke with different voices that made each one stand out from the other. And I liked that the chase theme and the heist theme were pretty evenly given focus, merging together to create quite an enjoyable film to watch. Sure things were pretty implausible and there were mega plot holes for sure. And it's a film that still doesn't focus on too much substance. But FAST FIVE doesn't need to be because those things would only clutter up the enjoyment and fun factor of this awesome sequel.

- The epic action and direction. Justin Lin does an amazing job visualizing this film. The cinematography is just beautiful, as the film was shot in multiple locations [mainly Puerto Rico]. The editing was great. The use of style with slow motion, close ups, framing, and composition were very good and very inspired. You can tell this is a big budget film and looks like they spent every cent on the right things.

And then there is the action. Holy crap. The action here is unbelievable, in more ways than one. Never in a FAST AND FURIOUS film has the action reached an epic scale until this installment. Watching a prison bus get turned over by fast cars and roll down a dusty road is pretty laughable, but cool to look at. The scene with the car steal from a moving train is just incredible. I was thrilled, on the edge of my seat, and just loving how well choreographed the entire sequence was. The best action moment has to be Dom and Brian dragging this huge vault through the streets of Rio [really Puerto Rico] during the film's final act. The property damage alone would make the Power Rangers' home of Angel Grove feel bad enough to give money to help out. Just an amazing sequence that's just truly exciting to watch. Add in a cool Vin Diesel vs. The Rock fist fight, Paul Walker kicking some ass with his own fists and guns, as well as thrilling character moments as each member of the crew helps complete the plan, and you got yourself a great action movie. FAST FIVE is truly the first film in the franchise that deserves its "action movie" status BIG TIME. Over-the-top, yet glorious to watch. It may not have been FAST, but the film definitely proves that it's still pretty FURIOUS.

- A non-focus on car racing. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was based on this idea of the characters racing fast cars to move the story along. But FAST FIVE barely has any racing scenes, instead focusing on chase scenes. And I'm glad about this fact. I think by this point, the race scenes were getting a bit old and tired. I'm not saying the franchise is done with this aspect. In fact, we get one race scene with Diesel, Walker, Gibson, and Kang that actually leads to something and happens to be fun to watch. We also get a race that's built up pretty well, but we never see it, instead seeing its aftermath. And I'm more than fine with that. I do think there should be a race or two in each installment, as long as it's not the focus anymore. It doesn't need to be, as the characters and the stories are more adult and deeper than that now. So I'm glad we barely got any race scenes. Watching the actors get chased in cars is more than enough.

- It's a tad too long for its own good. The runtime is really the only issue I have with the film. I think action films shouldn't be longer than two hours. And some of the action scenes could have been cut shorter and still had the same effect. The final action scene, in particular, could have been shorter to watch, although I did enjoy it quite immensely. It's not a terrible flaw, but I feel a shorter runtime would have made the film much better as a viewing experience.

FAST FIVE is the best FAST AND FURIOUS film to date. It has incredible action sequences. The cast is solid and more mature. The story actually kicks ass. There's just a nice focus in this installment that the other films didn't have for whatever reason. FAST FIVE is not only a great sequel, but it's also a great action film that sets it apart from anything else in the franchise. A fifth installment in a franchise should not be this good, or better than the films that led up to it. But FAST FIVE is one of the few exceptions, as it's fun, fun, fun. Now I'm really excited for FAST AND FURIOUS 6.

3.5 Howls Outta 4

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