Racing Movie Month: "Fast Five" Review

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Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster reprise their roles in this fifth movie from the "Fast & The Furious" series. Since breaking Dom out of custody, Brian (Walker) and Mia Toretto (Brewster) have been on the run with their ex-con friend, blowing through borders to elude the authorities. Now backed into a corner in Rio de Janeiro, they must pull one last high-risk job in order to gain their freedom.

3.5

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 130 minutes
Release Date: April 29, 2011
Directed by: Justin Lin
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller

For the speed-hungry viewers whose appetite for car-driven adventure was only opened by the first four installments of “Fast & Furious,” here comes “Fast Five.” Taking a slight turn from the usual car race formula, director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan bring in the additional lure of heist action. Of course, the speed remains at impressive levels and cars are still serving as serious eye candy for the passionate. But “Fast Five” seems to open its doors to more than just car lovers and becomes a very commendable multidimensional action movie.

Helped to escape imprisonment by his sister Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and his friend Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Dom Toretto (Van Diesel) has barely tasted freedom when he engages in an attempt to steal three cars from a train. (Is there any other imagery more consistent with the idea of speed than a bunch of speedy cars on top of a speedy train?) The heist ends up with some dead DEA agents and Dom and Brian in the possession of a car that conveniently hides a valuable computer chip. Mistakenly believed to have killed the agents on the train, they are chased by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team, who follow them to Dom’s safehouse in Rio de Janeiro.

When it turns out that the computer chip hidden in the car stores information about the crime lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and the location of $100 million of his money, Dom and Brian discover that they just secured another set of enemies to run from. The logical solution is, of course, to steal Reyes’ money and rebuild a new life. Engaging the services of a handful of other all-too-happy recruits, they have to pause, however, and deal with Hobbs. In a fateful twist of events, however, Hobbs crosses over to their side, temporarily gives them a break and helps them go on with their plans.

The heist ends up with Dom and Brian dragging a massive safe full of money through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, in a mad chase that defies not only what can be expected from humans, but also some well-defined laws of physics. For the viewers who get caught in the treacherous thought that Dom and Brian’s masterfully maneuvers are physically impossible, it is important to remember that movies deal with “what-ifs” rather than with “what is.” For other viewers, however, it is equally impossible to resist the tempting impulse to add up the potential cost of all the damages caused during the chase and wonder if the $100 million in the safe could cover all that. Beyond that, the chase is the highlight of the movie and a much expected reward for the faithful "Fast &Furious" viewer and lover of car races.

This is an adrenaline-filled flick with all the ingredients required for guaranteed success: fast cars, ill-placed bridges, money in the millions, guns, bulging muscles. Add to that the lure of Rio de Janeiro that looks here just about the coolest place on the face of the earth. And a portion of feminine beauty – after all, it’s Brazil, as it is made plenty clear in one memorable scene in which every Brazilian that breaths seems to have a gun under the shirt folds.

A special note must be made on the exceptional presence of The Rock. The imposing Dwayne Johnson looks very much in the right role here. He towers over his team, stubbornly chases Dom, appears out of nowhere when he’s least expected and covers half the set with the shadow of his pectoral muscles - all with the same monumental self-confidence with which The Rock slamms his opponents in the ring. It is easy to start rooting for him, which is the reason why the movie ends up with the unlikely alliance between the DSS officer and his prey. His interaction with Dom also brings some much needed comic relief.  “I don’t feel like I’m under arrest,” sneers Van Diesel at Hobbs’ attempts to bring him in. “Just give it a minute – it will sink in,” responds Johnson, not at all troubled by such nuances. The final scene of the movie generously opens the door to the next installment in the “Fast & Furious” series, in which the viewer is made to expect a massive presence from Johnson.

If one thing is certain is that “Fast Five” does not disappoint. It delivers what is expected and then some more. For those who want to be taken to the fast lane for a little bit more than two hours, “Fast Five” is an excellent escape.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5