Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fast Five (2011)

Fast Five
Dir. Justin Lin

originally posted to Facebook on 5/22/10

2.5 out of 5

All of the main players in the Fast and Furious franchise have logged so many hours in a one-shot behind the wheel of a car, eyes darting from side to side, a half-smirk on their face, that it's impossible to take anything they do between chase scenes seriously. Fast Five continues this proud tradition of breathtaking stunts periodically interrupted by wooden performances and musty plotlines. Justin Lin returns to direct for the third time, and while he has an impressive feel for the rhythm of big action sequences, he's always stalled whenever he has to come down from a Hot Wheels high and inject some humanity into this world of cold steel and burnt rubber. Of course, this is easier said than done when your leading men are Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

With Fast Five, Lin finally appears to be gaining some appreciation for the trifling nature of these films. He has a fun time getting the gang back together, including one member who, through the vast complexities of the Fast and Furious timeline, had already died in a previous installment of the series. The cast crossover works much better than the highly-touted "return" of the Walker and Diesel duo in the last film, and also adds Dwayne Johnson to the mix in a scenery-chomping role as the leader of a special law enforcement unit that feels like an extended audition for a role in an Expendables sequel. After a high-speed jailbreak, the action moves to Rio (and in case you forget, there are no fewer than three fly-bys of the Christ the Redeemer statue) where Fast Five quickly morphs into a heist movie, a sort of Ocean's Eleven for the meathead set.

But these are not the kind of actors who can pull off that kind of premise with any sense of camp, let alone wit or sophistication. It's a minor league version of a movie you've probably seen a few times, where emotional breakthroughs are celebrated with bro hugs and where banter qualifies as Ludacris kvetching about the subtle differences of etiquette involved in "grabbin' that ass" and "smackin' that ass." What's left is the glorious action and a white-knuckle climax that sees the gang storm a police station and recklessly drag an entire bank vault through busy city streets. There's still something unsettling about Lin's willingness to plop its heroes in another foreign country to see how much of it they can destroy, but at least this time his approach is appropriately cavalier.

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