Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Not quite supercharged, the latest film in the highly-successful, critic-immune street racing series once again returns to screens. There’s definitely more muscle this time around. Besides bringing back Vin Diesel, there’s former wrestler Dwayne Johnson, and the movie is super-sized too at 130 minutes.
The condensed version of the plot consists of how Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) break Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel) out of a prison bus. They head to Rio to hide out and cool off, but soon cross swords with big time villain Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). After figuring out how Reyes’ earns his keep, the trio round up various crew from the other Fast and Furious movies to pull off a heist. Closing in are US drug agent Hobbs (Johnson) and his team of agents who look as if they have just been on duty in Afghanistan.
The street racing aspect of previous Fast and Furious movies has been moved to the backseat, and the focus here is firmly on the heist, which seems to be an excuse to have a reunion of the cast from previous movies. The preparations for it seem to take forever, as the team mull strategies to break into a police station.
It’s a plot hole-filled story, and it’s best not to think too hard. The conclusion is a showdown with Reyes’ gang and the entire Rio police force, where Dominic and Brian drive two cars and drag a huge safe through the streets of Rio, smashing the police cars that give chase. The material here could fuel a couple of Mythbusters episodes.
The cars here, which look like they’re fresh off the factory floor, are almost like precision instruments--Paul uses a car to cause a prison bus to crash in the opening scene, which, despite rolling almost a dozen times, causes no fatalities. In the film’s best scene, the gang teams up with a Brazilian gang to steal some sports cars from a train, and director Justin Lin shows a fluid ability to capture the action without relying on shaky camera sequences and twitchy editing. The inevitable showdowns between Diesel and Johnson are almost primal in nature, as the two musclebound bulletheads snarl and break every window around.
When the movie focuses on the characters, Fast 5 deflates and plods along like an old jalopy, as the crew appear to see who can deliver the best wisecracks. There are even some quiet moments, as Brian and Dominic talk about their fathers and bond.
Ultimately, Fast and Furious 5 is a wanna-be epic that could have actually succeeded by fully investing in its universe of fast cars and where the ultimate weapon is nitrous oxide. It’s at its best when it’s speeding along and letting the over-the-top action speak for itself.
(Just so you know, there’s a scene at the end of the closing credits you might want to stay on for.)