Title: Fast Five (2011)
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Jordana Brester, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataki
Most of the time, when a series of films hits its fifth entry, it is almost a given that quality will take a nose dive. By the fifth film on any franchise, if the appropriate measures are not taken to make a good film, usually stories are watered down versions of their previous selves. Usually by that point, any passion or creativity is thrown out the window and the studio is simply cashing in on the franchises popularity rather then genuinely interested in making a good film. There’s no better genre to give an example of this than the horror genre. Take for example Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning (1985) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), both considered to be the worst in their respective franchises. By the time SAW V (2008) rolled into theaters, story had been spread so thin that it became a complete bore. So when word came down that the fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise was being filmed, I wasn’t expecting a great film. I was expecting a by the numbers sequel. Well, I’m happy to report that I was wrong; this fifth installment has proven to be the best film in the whole series! Not a bad way to kick off the summer blockbuster season!
On this film, Dominic Torreto and his crew of misfits have gone to Brazil running away from the authorities. But moving to Brazil doesn’t solves the fact that Torreto and crew are in desperate need of money to survive. Things are tight and it’s getting hard to survive with no cash, specially when we take in consideration that Paul Walker’s character (Brian O’Conner) is on his way to becoming a dad. So when a “job” comes along where they can steal a bunch of expensive cars and get some good moolah for them on the black market, they take it. Unfortunately for them, these aren’t just any old cars, and they get themselves involved in a plot that involves, drug trafficking, corrupt government leaders and 100 million dollars. Torreto and his crew decide to beat the system, and become free by going after the 100 million for themselves.
So how did Fast Five end up being the best film in the whole Fast and the Furious series of films? A lot has to do with a feeling of familiarity with the characters, I never thought I’d be saying this about a Fast and the Furious film, but you kind of feel like you know these guys. I mean, what the filmmakers got right is that they make us care for these characters by adding a lot of genuinely warm situations and scenes, where the characters become close, like family. So on top of the cool action sequences, and fast cars, we get some genuine warm characters we can connect with. Like many people right now in the world, these guys are struggling to survive, looking for a way to become financially free from the system, from the corruption and from economical woes. Let’s face it, in the modern world we live in, you might have a job, but you still feel like a slave, and it’s because of the way things are set up in society. And it’s the poor people who suffer the most because they don’t have that cash! I mean, if the cost of living keeps going up, it wont be long before we have to pay five bucks for a freaking can of soda.
So what this film does is it turns its main characters in to a gang of Robin Hoods. At times when governments are economically strangling their people, Robin always pops up somehow. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when Ridley Scott decided to make his recent take on the character. Robin Hood is a character for our times. So much like Robin of Loxley, Dominic and Co. steal from the corrupt government that lies to its people and bleeds them dry, to give to the poor, to those in need; and of course, to themselves. I liked that about the film, it addresses how badly people are in need of money right now, and it plays with that idea: what if the poor actually got away with stealing 100 million? They are anti-heroes because they are stealing, but this is a twisted world we live in, and sometimes the good guys are the bad guys, and vice versa. There are a lot of gray areas on this movie, morally speaking. But then again, the world we live in isn’t exactly black and white. So the film addresses themes of poverty, the way the system is set, and how the poor are trapped and left to suffer at the hands of corrupt governments, which is very true in many parts of the world. Hey, I live in Puerto Rico, I know a thing or two about corrupt governments who steal money and use the police force to opress their people instead of protecting them. I live and breathe this every day, so of course I connected with the story.
Then there are the awesome action sequences that this series of films is so well known for. I’ll just step right in here and say that in this area, the film does not disappoint one bit, it does contain some of the best action sequences (if not THE best) in the whole series . When there isn’t any action, we get the funny characters and dialog to hold us off. And it does get pretty funny at times; actually, there were a couple of instances where I literally laughed out loud. But back to the action, don’t know how many of you guys know this, but 90 % of this movie was shot in Puerto Rico, where I live. In fact, it wasn’t only shot in Puerto Rico, a huge chunk of the action sequences where shot right in front of the building where I work at every day! So I got to see how a huge Hollywood Blockbuster gets made. For a full article on this go to this link and read about my adventures walking around the set of Fast Five. It was pretty exciting for me, since I am in my own small way a filmmaker myself. But it was great to see this huge production unfold before my very eyes. Actually, at one point I got to meet Paul Walker’s stunt double and was actually standing right next to Elsa Pataki at one point while they were shooting a scene! I wasn’t aware that it was her (she had glasses and a hat covering her face) but that birthmark in her upper left lip is hard to miss. When I saw the film I realized that it was her I was standing next to all the time! So anyhows, the action sequences are spectacular. The whole last big bombastic action sequence where the good guys steal the vault with the 100 million dollars inside of it was shot in front of my job, and it’s the best freaking sequence in the whole film! Pretty impressive stuff, I loved the way they edited the whole thing, it looks so exciting up on screen! It was great to see so many familiar places in a big Hollywood film, of course, its all made up to look as if it’s all taking place in Brazil, but whatever. It’s was fun as hell!
Another plus that the film has going for it is that Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock) is now part of the cast. On this film, he plays a cop hot on Torreto’s tail. I’m glad to see Dwayne Johnson finally returning to action films, in my opinion, he still has to make that “great action film” that he will be known for, so I’m glad he hasn’t given up on this. In fact, if you ask me, he has returned in full force to action films. This year he has released not one, but two big action films! Faster (2010) which also starred Billy Bob Thorton and now Fast Five where he actually goes “mano a mano” with Vin Diesel. Two me, these two guys are the modern equivalent of the 80’s big action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Big dudes with huge muscles who like to scream, punch and shoot their way of any situation. Testosterone flies high in this movie! One scene has them both going at each others throats and all I could think of was that Arnold and Stallone never had a film like this where they kick each others asses. In my humble opinion, Dwayne Johnson looks more bad ass in the film. Their big fight was another highlight of the film, the big question being “who’s the toughest hombre of the two?” Watch the movie and find out.
On the negative side of things, the acting is not so great. But hey, this movie is not one of those movies you go to see for performances, this is the kind of movie you go to see to see fast cars, and lots of destruction of public property, which is exactly what you'll get. Still, it's kind of funny to see Vin Diesel try and act all serious and emotional in certain scenes. By far, the most kick ass character in this movie is Dwayne Johnson. In that scene where its Vin Diesel vs. Dwayne Johnson, my money was on The Rock for sure. The dude looks like a freaking tank on this movie! Other negative points: the film has some gargantuan loop holes and gaps in logic. I mean, stealing those cop cars was waaaay too easy! And then they run them down the street and no other cop seems to see them doing these high speed races in stolen cop cars? Also, where did these poor dudes get the money to buy a second vault with which to practice their heist? That thing must have cost some serious cash, yet, they magically get it in a matter of days. Who put the money up for that vault? And yet another weak link in the film is the films villain, who is dispatched by the good guys without even letting the bad guy have his moment of glory. But ultimately, I didnt give a crap about these things because I was having fun with the film.
All in all, a great action flick. It had me laughing and entertained all the way, something I never thought these Fast and the Furious movies would do. I guess its official, this sequel won me over. Word of advice, stay a couple of minutes after the credits for a logic defying ending (which stars Eva Mendez by the way) that will have you coming back for the sequel, which will no doubt get made. After all, in its first three days in theaters, Fast Five pulled in 83 million dollars at the box office! This no doubt assures us another entry in the series, and no doubt will get director Justin Lin that Terminator sequel he wants to direct. An excellent action film every step of the way, highly recommend it.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5
I took this picture on the set, right after they had yelled "Thats a Wrap!"