By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Towards the end of Fast Five, when two Dodge Chargers are dragging a ten ton or so, very square, steel safe through the streets of Rio (it’s in the trailer, so cool it), you realize the ridiculousness of grading this movie with traditional metrics. The Fast and the Furious series has always been on the unrealistic side, but Fast Five embraces it and never lets go.
This one picks up exactly where Fast and Furious left off, with Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) et al busting Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of the prison bus transport. Their escape ultimately finds them in Rio de Janeiro, where a botched car heist from a speeding train runs them afoul of both the FBI and implacable agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Reyes, Rio’s most ruthless crime lord. To get back at Reyes and fund their freedom, Dominic assembles a team consisting of Tej (2 Fast 2 Furious– Ludacris), Roman (2 Fast 2 Furious– Tyrese), Han (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift– Sung Kang), Gisele (Fast and Furious– Gal Gadot), and Leo & Santos (Fast and Furious– Don Omar & Tego Calderon). Their goal is rob ten cash safehouses spread throughout the city for a total haul of $100 million.
Wait, no Lucas Black? I assume he was free…
To the balls of this film. Screenwriter Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin cut out most all of that plot nonsense and double down on fast cars, tiny skirts, big explosions, and achingly impossible action sequences. They’re clearly past the point of caring whether any of it makes sense, and it’s oddly liberating.
The technical side of things is excellent. The action sequences are truly impressive and the camerawork and stunt coordination are top notch. I was particularly impressed with an ambush scene where an armored convoy is attacked with a rocket launcher. I don’t know how they pulled off The Rock’s narrow escape, but it was as authentic-feeling and immersive of an action scene as you could ask for.
Unfortunately, not everything was nearly as convincing. Morgan and Lin stretch the concept of suspension of disbelief to its maximum, and the sheer amount of plot holes and head-scratching human behavior is too large to ignore. My personal favorite is when Tyrese, posing as a cop, walks into a police station with a suspicious package and is almost immediately identified as an imposter. Instead of arresting him, or maybe having the bomb squad take a peek, they just toss the package in the evidence locker.
Because nothing bad can come of that
For a script as unconcerned with logic as this one, it’s unclear why it is so insistent that the audience understands certain pretty clear plot points.
Instead of finding nine ways to tell us that Mia is pregnant, explain to us how you can burn 1/10th of the money, give another huge portion away, buy high-tech surveillance equipment and a massive safe, and still end up with the full $100 mill? Also, what kind of swimsuit material can you lift an entire handprint off of… memory foam? And how does the entire police force of Rio consist of about thirty cop cars, no helicopters, and no SWAT teams?
How do you pass on the chance to put this on the big screen?
Okay, enough of that. I could go on for days, and in the end if you think too much about movies like this you’re likely to start bleeding out of your eyes. I was a disappointed, though, about how the supporting cast was used. Tyrese and Ludacris get some banter in and we get a romantic subplot, but if the franchise really is moving in an “Ocean’s Eleven” direction as we’ve been told, then they’re going to need to get a little more out of these characters.
I may have added a beer for relative disappointment considering the almost insanely high reviews, but if you like the series and go into it with the same mindset as the rest of the films you should really enjoy yourself.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever something happens that would make your high school physics teacher cry
Take a Drink: every time The Rock delivers a bad one-liner
Take a Drink: whenever The Rock is sweating profusely when no one else around him is: (Twitter shout-out to mrkentsanderson)
Drink a Shot: every time Brazilian henchman #1 proves unkillable
He makes Jason Voorhees look like an amateur