As someone who has managed to avoid the first four titles in the Fast and the Furious catalogue, when I was invited to a screening of Fast Five I couldn’t help but wonder how I should go about reviewing it. Would there really be a need to watch the other four films in a marathon session, in the off chance that there would be a lot of situations that I wouldn’t understand without as much knowledge of the Vin Diesel-Paul Walker relationship as humanly possible? Or would I be safe in assuming that it would be like taking the kids to the latest Ice Age sequel, and any back story the audience needed to know would be spelled out within the first three minutes?
My questions were answered quickly by an opening sequence that involved what was apparently the ending scene of Fast & Furious, an escape attempt that would have killed 30 people in the real world but miraculously only resulted in Diesel’s escape, and then everyone popping up in Rio. All of this happens in roughly three minutes. This is truly a turn-your-brain-off film, because the only thing I was really questioning within the first quarter of the movie was how big of a tax credit is Rio giving to film productions now. Seriously, I’ve seen more flicks set up in Rio in the past calendar year than in the past five combined.
After Diesel and Walker take a job that goes bad, resulting in the deaths of three DEA agents, a special task force led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is sent in to apprehend the fugitives. Not since Predator has an American force been sent into a foreign country with so much firepower. Seriously, I believe one of the guys on this squad was carrying a pirate ship’s cannon at one point. Miraculously, in the half-dozen fire fights they get into during the film no unarmed civilians are injured, so there's no need to worry about any untoward international press asking, “Hey, why are American cops shooting up Brazilian homes over a handful of car thieves?”
Diesel decides, in a very Ocean’s Eleven moment, that in order to exact revenge upon the local crime boss that is causing him trouble and gain the monetary funds required to further evade the cops, he needs to call in six other members of his crew and rob eleven million dollars from said crime boss. Now the film has become FF All-Stars, with the producers unable to use anyone from Tokyo Drift, since the death of a major character at the beginning of that film has resulted in such a convoluted history that the film will have to now take place in 2030.
I hate to go out on a limb here, but I'm willing to bet that the score on Rotten Tomatoes for this movie will be pretty meh, which is a shame, because in my opinion director Justin Lin manages to pull off a pretty exciting action showcase that in the hands of, let's say Tony Scott, would have been dreadful. No one in this cast is going to collect an Academy Award anytime soon, but I believe they know that. At this point in his career, Diesel just wants to keep his name recognizable. Paul Walker isn't exactly picky with film roles. The Rock is going through a period right now where he is appearing in a few films that aren't PG Disney flicks, so I'll take what I can get. Everyone in the cast rises above an atrocious script. A female is sick? I wonder if she could be pregnant. A new semi-important female character just made eye contact with Diesel? Love connection! Seriously, all the subtlety of a brick to the head, but the cast makes it work.
Summer is officially here, so prepare for brainless film after brainless film to be released for the next few months. That being said, if the trailer for Fast Five intrigued you as much as it did me, there are worse ways to spend a Friday night.