22 April 2011

FAST & FURIOUS 5- Review

So, Fast & Furious 5. Sorry, er... Fast & Furious 5- Rio Heist. Or is that Fast Five? I'm pretty sure it was Five Times Faster and Furiouser, right? Well, the BBFC says Fast Five. You can call a duck a goose, but it's still the fourth sequel to The Fast and the Furious. I'm not going to fucking quack any more about the title, when the main matter of my quacking lies elsewhere.

What can be distinguished of the plot at this point finds criminal siblings Dom and Mia Toretto, and their habitual lapdog, Brian O'Conner, escaping to Rio in order to avoid a federal manhunt. Incapable of lying low, they begin to mount a daring heist on a corrupt businessman who double-crossed them on a job. When a couple of DEA agents are caught in the crossfire, federal agent and supercop Hobbs is put on the criminals' trail.

If you're easily affronted by dodgy physics in films, you should know by now that these are not the films for you. In case you had forgotten since 2009's de-infinitived sequel Fast & Furious, we open on a resolution to that film's cliffhanger, with our heroes liberating Dom Toretto from a bus bound for prison by crashing into it in a muscle car, causing the bus to flip over and roll several times, squashing it to about half of its original height. Even a newsreader in the film has the dignity to be astonished that there are subsequently "no fatalities" in this pile-up.

In the larger pile-up that is Fast Five, the main casualty is Paul Walker. Having found a modicum of box office success starring in the awful heist movie Takers between sequels, he almost seems to realise for himself that the series that started with him as a protagonist has gotten away from him. In any scene with Vin Diesel and someone else, he almost seems to be trying to remind us that he's still there. Walker is such a bland actor that he's even overshadowed by Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, never mind the enormity of Dwayne Johnson's role.

Johnson injects some energy into a franchise that has been running on empty for a while now in his role as Hobbs, but he serves to make Walker even more redundant. The roots of this series are in Point Break, with the first instalment closely following the formula of Kathryn Bigelow's surfer action movie par excellence. If they had made Point Break 2, Point Break 3, etc, do you think they would have been the further adventures of Keanu Reeves' Johnny Utah? No, we'd have followed Bodhi, if he survived that fucking wave like the badass we all know Patrick Swayze was in that film.

Still, this is a film that reunites racers from various separate instalments of the series, making Walker slightly less superfluous. The issues with the script remain the same, but there are some differences this time. Fast Five is an unabashed heist movie, and just as existing original scripts were repurposed for successful properties with Die Hard 4.0 and Ocean's Twelve, it feels like the same thing happened on this one. An "original script" can't take long to write for these characters, but to look at the scale of the production, it's remarkable that it's come together just two years after the previous instalment.

It's clearly had a great deal of money spent on it, not only for the on-location shooting in Brazil, but for the excision of the cheap and nasty CGI effects that negated the point of the car races in previous outings. There's actually a lot of admirable practical effects work here, but it's just a shame that so much effort goes into a script that's mostly guff. There was a point in contention online last week, saying that the Scream series had the most inept screen cops. The cops in the universe of The Fast and the Furious are clearly far worse, because without exception, they're all either going to join Toretto or unsuccessfully give chase as he vrooms around doing wrong.

The signs are that Fast Five is too much of a stretch for even the series' most dogged fans. I saw the film at a pretty packed opening day screening, and several people stuck around for a mooted closing credits sting that paves the way for a sixth instalment. This was in spite of the film's punishing 130 minute running time, which makes this the slowest film ever to feature the word "fast" in the title(s), by my measure. It's overlong, and after the plot twist in this additional scene, the incredulous and unimpressed reactions of the teenage boys sat behind me seemed to eulogise the series' popularity pretty well.

Director Justin Lin brings everyone back in Fast Five, along with the latent hostility towards the laws of physics and the hyper-macho sexual tension. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson have an entertaining rivalry, dampened by Paul Walker's puppy-dog affection for the guy who's clearly usurped the franchise from underneath him. Not that such story matters are explored in much depth in the cascade of violence, cars and girls- lather, rinse, and repeat. Its impressive practical effects and action sequences make it a step up from the previous instalment, but then being involved in an auto accident is a step up from the previous instalment. Unless you're a fan, give it a miss.

Fast Five is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Fast Five, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


John Noble said...

This review is [mostly] spot on, especially the "unless you're a fan" bit: I am a fan and for my money, this was easily the best in the series - and I loved one and four, but I can see that the idea of the series will turn people off.

It's a shame you felt it was "overlong"; this, to me, was like watching Point Break for the very first time in a cinema; I was so totally into it, I couldn't se the wood for the tres and couldn't tell where it was going, beyond that the goodies would probably win, so every minute was a a blast, especially in the end chase.

Thing is, I like the characters; I love the Rock, he was solid in every way - huge, HUGE bloke! Vin Diesel can act and everyone else looks pretty on screen.

I want a Fast Six. Hell, I'll help them make it...


dewille said...

I think fans of this franchise will be "OK" with the latest instalment I However was not. The film got away from street racing and made O'Conner, Torretto and the gang super-criminals similar to the Italian job. There was no explanation of where other characters were or how they survived certain deaths. The plot sucked balls and was a blatant poor excuse to keep the Fast franchise going could've been a lot better with more planning and more of what made it great racing!!!

Mark said...

It's possible you might not like Fast Six then- ahead of the US opening, Universal have said they want to make the new sequels more like The Italian Job/The French Connection. Urg.