With that immortal line and such a failsafe concept, Fast & Furious 5 (aka Fast 5) will likely win the hearts and minds of every adolescent, popcorn-chomping gamer in the land. In years to come, cinematic scholars will use this film as a glowing example of Hollywood making what is possibly the most unashamed attempt in all of movie history at trying to please the intended demographic.
The action begins two minutes in with a bone-crunching escape sequence which results in a prison bus holding a shackled Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) doing the kind of multiple flips not seen since the halcyon days of the small screen A-Team escapades. We are then greeted to Rio de Janeiro receiving the swooping Tony Scott-esque landscape treatment (and mightily impressive it is) as the old gang reassemble. Diesel in joined by series veterans Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker, alongside a ‘best of’ of faces from previous instalments (including the likes of Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) as they form a tight-nit crew for one last job (of course!) to take down corrupt Brazilian businessman (Joaquin De Almeida) and relieve him of his $100 million fortune gained via the drugs industry. Also on their trail is federal agent (a CGI-looking Dwayne Johnson) who, together with his team of meatheads, is determined to bring the team down once and for all.
If the theme running through the previous entries in the series (which is now been running for an incredible ten years!) was all high speed, souped-up motors and pedal to the metal action, 5 is intent on spreading the family love and what it means to be a solid unit. That’s not to say that it’s lacking those other thrills however, but the Oceans Eleven-type camaraderie is where much of the laughs are mined and relationships are cemented. Walker (graduating here from balsa wood to oak, performance-wise) has a little future FBI member-turned-petrolhead baby on the way with Brewster (the film’s attempt at raising the emotional stakes a little higher).
Johnson (who has been experiencing less-than-stellar box office action recently) must have jumped at the chance of coming aboard here. He delivers a hilariously knowing, wink-wink performance (regardless to whether he is aware of this) as the insanely ripped police offer, who (literally) tosses away the rulebook at one moment early on in the film. Director Justin Lin (who has made three of the five films) is operating from the same viewpoint too, and any regard to even capturing one iota of logic and reality is completely absent here. We’re treated to some (admittedly) thrilling action beats. A rooftop chase sequence atop of the favelas tries to out-Bourne Bourne and mostly works (if you can go with the conceit that humans are basically indestructible) and the final bank vault car chase features the most wilful disregard for the automobile ever commented to celluloid.
As with many films in this genre, the plot (and anything else for that matter), merely serves as a function to get the characters closer to that next piece of action. Exposition is spouted every 10 seconds or so, and every scene ends with a dramatic line reading and plot reveal before we’re delivering into the next shot (completing with a pounding blast on the soundtrack). Dwayne and the gang also seem to have in their possession the kind of tech-tech crime-busting equipment which looks like it’s a good 10-20 years away from being a reality. It’s also funny to observe Brewster refuse a beer on account of her being pregnant, when earlier on we’ve seen her take a 30-plus foot blind leap into an incredibly dangerous-looking and unstable corrugated roof.
None of these are criticisms as such, as it’s hard to be tough on a film which absolutely succeeds in what it initial sets out to do. This was never a film designed to explore the finer details of the human psyche and its relationship with the motor. This is action cinema at its most outlandish and uproarious. Apart from the much-anticipated meeting of the muscles, wrestling bout between Diesel and Johnson (which you half expect to end with a roll in the hay and a quick make-up kiss) the sweaty, testosterone macho posturing on display is an unadulterated joy to behold.
In keeping with the oft-used food fast parallels towards modern, mainstream Hollywood cinema, Fast & Furious 5 is a bit little buying a Big Mac, only this time, discovering that it actually tastes much better than what you’ve been previously been accustomed to, although you’d never glance at the ingredients for fear of it spoiling your enjoyment and stopping you from taking that last delicious bite.