I guess I’ll start by saying it’s the first film in the series I’ve seen – and it wasn’t my idea to go. My girlfriend, who is sometimes an oracle when it comes to bad action films, suggested it. I’ve avoided these films for one simple reason: they look really dumb. Plus, I’m not really a car person. Don’t get me wrong – I love my 1997 Volvo station wagon and if a 1970 Dodge Challenger came into my possession I wouldn’t cry but I’m just not that interested in automobiles. I think of them as a tool, a device I use to get from point a to point b. Regardless of my disdain for most car movies I loved Fast Five.
Don’t let my love for Fast Five deceive you – I didn’t think it was a good film. What I did like about Fast Five is it doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is: the fifth in a long line of outrageous action films where two muscle laden protagonists race cars and steal things. Fast Five didn’t disguise mediocrity and it’s honest in what it markets itself as; for that I applaud everybody involved. It’s a little disgusting when producers tout their pedestrian products as paradigm shifting works and Fast Five is the exact opposite. Thank god.
Although I’m not familiar with the events of the previous four films I was able to pick up the cues immediately. Paul Walker plays Brian O’Connor, a former FBI agent who’s on the lam from his previous employers. The film begins with O’Connor and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) breaking Mia’s brother and Brian’s friend Dom (Vin Diesel) out of prison. Using cars to perform a spectacular prison bus escape the film begins with ridiculousness and it doesn’t end there. For the next two hours this trio fly’s cars over cliffs, jumping off without a hitch right before they hit water, they tow a vault behind two sports cars, destroying everything in sight, and much more. While the stunts in the film are outlandish and unbelievable they’re fun.
Another interesting portion of this film is its embrace of multiculturalism. Aside from Brian there isn’t another white hero in the film. The team assembled to pull of the film’s heist includes two African Americans, an Asian American, an Israeli woman, two South Americans, and others. The Rock, who likes being called Dwayne Johnson nowadays (he’ll always be The Rock, regardless of what he does in the future. He can win an Oscar, a Tony, and any other award and he’ll still be a former professional wrestler) delivers a credible performance as agent Hobbs: a rough and tough American specialist whose lust for capturing Brian and Mia is only outshined by his absurd action stunts and overblown ego and machismo. He’s also part black and part Samoan. Fast Five is good at portraying the cultural landscape of early 21st century America and for that I applaud the filmmakers.
And now on to the bad parts of the film.
This film is dumb. Really dumb. It assumes the audience is stupid and plays to the lowest common denominator. These goons pulling off a heist where they steal $100 million or so dollars is more unbelievable than Camping’s doomsday prophecy. The film relies on fantasy and asks the audience to believe the shit they’re selling and disregard any sense of realism. Of course it’s the movies but audiences demand a certain amount of realism for their money and Fast Five doesn’t deliver any realism whatsoever (aside from presenting breathing humans driving cars in real locations; other than that its hyper-fictional).
Some of the actors and actresses do perform well but their characters are pretty one dimensional. The chemistry between Walker and Diesel is quite unbelievable and it’s incredible these two went through a few previous movies together. In short, I don’t believe these two care about each other in any way; whether they like or dislike each other seems irrelevant – I didn’t believe they even knew each other. It seemed like they were reading their lines, not performing them.
If you’re looking for a realistic action film (is there really such a thing?) don’t see Fast Five. If you’re looking for a good time in an escapist paradise check this film out. For all its flaws it’s a fun film that I’m glad I went to. Thankfully they won’t make another but considering this movie was quite profitable (bringing in over $500 million domestically off a $125 million dollar budget) and they left the ending a bit open I wouldn’t be surprised if another Fast and the Furious film will hit theaters in the next few years. Until then, enjoy this next piece of mediocre celluloid garbage Hollywood churned out for movie going audiences this summer.