As a car enthusiast I'm not a fan of the first film, The Fast and the Furious (2001); it didn’t seem to know much about cars and the underworld racing culture isn’t interesting to me because drag racing is about as intense as fly fishing. I hate the second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003); I love the third film, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), which is a standalone film; and I hate the fourth film, Fast & Furious (2009).
Fast Five, I kind of like.
There is a story embedded somewhere within this film but it’s not interesting or important, and nor does it really need to exist. There just has to be a reason for random things to happen between one action sequence and the next. And no one really needs to watch any of the other F&F films in order to enjoy this one.
But for the sake of tradition…
Fast Five takes place exactly where the fourth film had ended, in which Dom (Vin Diesel) was escorted via prison bus to serve a 25-year sentence without parole. His best friend and his sister, played by Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster break him out by flipping the bus over (magically without hurting anyone on it!) and they all take off to live in Rio de Janeiro (hopefully they didn’t drive there). Once there, Dom and the gang meet up with his brother, who’d been absent since the first film, and immediately they team up to pull off a job where muscle cars are extracted from within a moving train. It’s implausible and improbable but the film, from its first opening minute, announces its hatred for anything physics related and breaks every rule in the universe. The end result is that it’s fun. Who cares when it’s fun, right?
Dwayne Johnson leads a team of special ops in the US and is called to Brazil to apprehend Dom and the gang. That’s’ really all there is for him to do. Aside from a Parkour chase in the slums and a good ol' fashion fist with between him and Vin Diesel, there’s not much for him to do.
There’s another story involving the biggest crook in all of Rio and in order to destroy him, the entire cast from every single F&F film joins the current cast and they form a team, turning the second half of this film into an Ocean’s Eleven repeat. But it’s still a fun repeat.
There is no acting power in this film. I know, from the bottom of my heart that Vin Diesel and Paul Walker cannot act and this film is further proof of that, but in order to combat the obvious, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson offer terrific comic relief, thankfully throughout, and the return of Han (Sung Kang), in a strange alternate universe “the third film will always be the last film in the series” is a nice welcome.
I like the character of Han. He’s actually the only character that I’d ever liked from all five films. In the first film, all of the protagonists were thieves by day and illegal street racers by night. The real hero was an undercover FBI agent who befriended the criminals and eventually they became best friends. There was absolutely nothing to like about any of them; and Dom spouting gospels about family and loyalty got very old, very fast. Han, he’s mellow. He races for fun, for skill, and, obviously for women. But he’s a very nice guy. Clearly he doesn’t belong in this film series but having him in the third film, playing mellow and cool, and bringing him back to this fifth installment is a very nice touch.
There is plenty of action in this film, as absurd and physics defying as it is and, thankfully, almost no racing. There is a short drag race in the middle of the film that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t need to exist either, but I have a feeling that without it fans of the series would be upset. The pacing of the film is decent, even though the film is over two hours in length, and there is plenty of humor to be found.
This is a film that's almost entirely designed for fanboys of the series. If you liked the first four films, or any of them you will love this film. If not, this is still an improvement over the first, second, and fourth films put together. Within the first thirty minutes I had a rating of 3 stars in mind; within half of the film I lowered it down to 2 stars. By its end, the film received a solid 2 1/2 rating. It’s almost a pass. But remember: check your brain at the door, along with your cell phone.