Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Elsa Pataky, Chris Bridges
Director: Justin Lin
Writer(s): Chris Morgan
Cinematography: Stephen F. Windon
Original Score: Brian Tyler
Running Time: 130 Mins.
Stupidity in films is very rarely praised, odd really given that stupidity very often gives birth to some of the worlds most genuinely entertaining and enjoyable ways of spending our time, yet it is a tone that never seems able to cut it with the snotty critics of the world. Yes audiences lap up stupidity (how else would you explain the success of Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans et al) but what does it take for something stupid to be truly admired, well my theory is this. You can be stupid and be great but to balance to two takes a careful hand, in the case of a film an assured director who knows their stuff, as careful a hand in fact as it takes to make a universally loved “masterpiece” that reeks of worthiness (such as The Kings Speech or Blue Valentine, both excellent in their own right). These films are easy to like, heck even easy to admit you like, the mention will give you geek credence or simply glances in your direction for liking something considered intelligent amongst other things.
Pfft, is all I say to that and I have always been a supporter of the truly stupid movie, the best ones are those that stick around as long as the so-called classics of cinema, Armageddon, Top Gun, Con Air to name but a mere few, so without any more ado I would like to thrust Fast Five up there, if not on a par, edging close to some of the most entertaining stupid movies. To be fair each film in The Fast and The Furious franchise has never sought out intelligent audiences nor has it purported to be anything other than a cinematic equivalent of chewing gum for the eyes, but where the first film was set in the world of street racing each subsequent effort has cleaved a little further from that initial idea, this is key to a successful franchise.
So if the last effort, Fast and Furious edged ever further from simply being about souped up cars this time (picking up from the very last scene of the previous film) the focus is refreshingly different again, there is rumour that elements of the dropped Italian Job remake sequel script were shunted across for Fast Five, something which is evident and also offers the franchise a jolt of energy so where Fast and Furious was fun Fast Five is huge fun and (not surprisingly) ups the ante ten fold, if you liked the petrol tanker prologue seen last time you will love the one-two whammy of breakout from a prison bus and, in the films highlight, a robbery from a moving train…only a Bond film could compete for sheer audacity in the set pieces supposedly set in the “real world”.
Key to this franchises success has always been the cast, while not exactly brimming with awards stature the players have always fit the parts perfectly and it is no surprise that those entries that lacked the gravel-voiced ones presence were the weaker ones. Here Diesel looks like he is having immense fun and even finds time to emote a touch (which shows that he can act a touch!) though on the downside he is saddled with a half-arsed romance, something which seems to be obligatory but totally needless given the female presence in the film is pretty high for a change. That said this is a film brimming with testosterone, helped by the return of almost everyone from previous installments. Some are welcome, Gibson and Kang, with others simply being nothing more the perfunctory, Bridges and Pataky.
The ace in the hole though is the introduction of Johnson, a man as big in personality as he is in stature, barking his lines like the 2011 version of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, if there is a flaw it is that his character somewhat sells out towards the end, something that harks back to the very first film. Other weaknesses include an overlong running time which doesn’t drag thankfully, rather it just sags in the middle amidst the sea of characters and despite a destructive finale the standout action scene appears far too early meaning it never quite tops the thrill of a robbery from a moving train!
If this is the direction the series is set to take in the future however I am pleased to embrace the idea of each film acting as a standalone heist, it is a refreshing thought to know we can become familiar with the characters who are nothing if not likeable, and see them in many different scenarios…roll on Fast Six.
Fast Five is the best in the series thus far, embracing its stupidity and something of a coup considering how much dumb fun each instalment has been (bar one or two blips) and taking the plot in a different and refreshing direction is, well, refreshing.