Movies I Need To See Before I Die: FAST FIVE (2011)

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(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

Yes, this was my first time seeing FAST FIVE.  I saw the other 4 already.  I just wasn’t really motivated to see the fifth one when it was released in theaters 2 years ago.  I had a bit of a checkered past with the franchise, you see.  I loved the first one, and liked the 2nd….. NOT because they were good movies.  But because they were pretty terrible.  The acting and dialogue are laughable and the action stunts are ridiculous.  But that’s what made those first two so much fun.  The third one was a huge step in the wrong direction.  Just a sloppy film.  The 4th reunited the main cast together again, but that still didn’t make it a good movie.  I know a lot of folks liked the 4th one, but I didn’t like it cause it felt like it was trying to hard to be serious.  I liked the silly, tongue-in-cheek world of the first 2.  Anyway, since the 6th one is about to be released, (and my press screening for it is tonight, actually) I thought I should finally watch FAST FIVE.

The 4th one ended with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) about to be sprung from a prison bus by cop-turned-criminal Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).  Well, that’s right where this one begins, with a pretty impressive prison break, as Brian stops his car right in front of the bus, causing it to flip several times (kind of reminded me of a similar scene from ANOTHER 48 HRS.).  Brian and Dom team up with an old friend, Vince (bad actor extraordinaire, Matt Schultze) to pull off a job that will give them a much-needed payday.  The job goes wrong, with the duo being betrayed by some of Vince’s colleagues.  This botched job has caught the attention of a special task force led by Luke Hobbs (The Rock), whose primary objective is to take Toretto down.  Meanwhile, Dom figures out who was behind the betrayal and decides to rob him blind.  In order to pull off this massive heist, Dom brings in some old friends, which pretty much make up the entire cast of the previous films including Ludicrous, Tyrese Gibson, and Sung Kang.  The final 40 minutes is a riveting action set piece that involves Dom and Bryan dragging a gigantic safe the size of a small tank with their cars through the busy streets of Rio, with Hobbs hot on their trail.

This movie is a huge departure of the usual “Fast & Furious” formula.  There’s not a whole lot of racing going on here.  This is primarily a heist film loaded with a couple handful of colorful characters.  I suppose you could call it “Toretto’s Eleven”.  I’m not going to beat around the bush.  This movie is dumb, dumb, dumb.  But so are the other ones.  Now, like I said, I didn’t like the 4th one.  The main reason was because I thought the action was sloppy, with too much CGI.  Well, that’s not the case here.  I’m sure there are several computer-enhanced shots throughout, but most of these stunts looked real.  And they’re huge.  The opening was breathtaking, and that’s the smallest stunt!   There’s a great train robbery that ends with Dom and Bryan driving their car over a huge cliff.  There was a surprisingly amount of gunplay throughout the movie too, and the shootouts are exciting.  There’s a great stand-off between The Rock and Diesel, but the highlight is the climax.  Those 2 cars dragging that safe, demolishing pretty much everything in their path is one of the more impressive action set pieces that I’ve seen in a while.

The acting…. well…. it is a Fast & Furious movie, right?  You’re not really going to get any good acting here.  Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster all slip back into their roles comfortably.  Almost too comfortably, since their performances are pretty laid back.  Matt Schultz as Vince is a hoot to watch.  Such a great bad actor!  Love this guy!  Sung Kang, Tyrese, and Ludicous all get their moments to shine.  There’s also a nice “eye candy” addition by the way of Elsa Pataky who plays the hot cop working with Hobbs.  She also seems to have a soft spot for big bald muscle heads who break the law.  And….. The Rock.  Well, he’s The Rock.  At first, I didn’t know what to think of him.  He’s a pretty good actor I think, but he seems to have dumbed down his acting in order to fit in with the rest of the cast.  He utters some of the film’s worst lines: “You know I like my dessert first”, and “Gimmie the damn veggies” (and no, I’m not kidding.  He actually says those things!).  But, that was sort of fun seeing The Rock hamming it up a bit, almost to the point of parody.  And you know part of the reason he was cast was to pit him up against Diesel, and the movie definitely doesn’t disappoint there.

But who comes to see these movies for the fucking acting?  I’ll tell you who….. NO ONE!  This is Justin Lin’s third shot at the franchise and it’s easily HIS best work.  Every action scene is carefully storyboarded and executed with the proper precision.  The script?  Well, the story is too bloated.  Too many characters!  The movie is at its best when things are loud, and its lowest when trying to develop the characters.  Some of the melodramatic scenes are unintentionally funny (again, kind of part of the fun) as the plot goes into THE OC territory on occasion.  Do we really need to know if Dom remembers his father or not?  Oh…. and poor Bryan doesn’t remember his father at all…  BOO HOO!  WOW!  It gets out of hand.  I mean….. seriously, I don’t care IF you’re going to have a baby, just fucking race somebody already.  And if I had to hear Vin Diesel talk about how important the “family” was one more time, I was going to slit my wrists.  But, all those things made me laugh.  So…. still entertained me, I guess.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was fully on board with this film until the finale.  Once that got up and running, I finally gave in.  That action scene was so cool.  I just had to accept that this movie is dumb as rocks and just go with the flow.  The last 2 entries were stupid too, but at least this one was well directed and features some of the most impressive stunt work I’ve seen in years.  I still like the first one the best, but I can honestly say that this is probably the second best one.  If you like this franchise, well, then this won’t disappoint.  It’s the biggest one yet.  ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.

- Running time: 2hrs 10min.

(FAST FIVE is available to rent on DVD from Netflix)

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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