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Reaching Way Beyond Hot Bodies, Fast Cars, and Big Muscles

Movie Review: Fast Five (2011)
Summary: Dominic and his crew conduct one last mission to take down Reyes, a crime-lord in Rio.
Spoilers: This review contains minor spoilers.

Fast Five is the apparent finale (let us hope) of The Fast and the Furious films. Call it “The Fast and the Furious Five” or call it “Fast Five” as it is brought to you, but if it were a cell phone buddy of yours, it likely wouldn’t be in your “Fav Five."

This fifth addition is in some ways a much better film than the previous ones. It tries like a mad banshee to serve up a more mature screenplay, one to be taken seriously by people other than those recently out of high school who love to street-race with loud mufflers.

Brought to you by director Justin Lin, this is one excitement-bent destruct-o-fest, a ride of adrenaline and squealing tires that would make Michael Bay proud. It features a more-buffed-up-than-ever Dwayne Johnson who towers over a very buffed up Vin Diesel. It’s The Fast and the Furious alright, and the new facelift looks good.

Having been sentenced to prison with no chance of early parole, "Dominic Toretto" (Diesel) is hauled off to begin serving his time. That’s when his friends come to the rescue. What else to do with those super-fast and super-loud sports cars besides cause a police transport bus (strangely unaccompanied by backup units) to flip? No way Dom will die from that!

Well, no one dies. Not then, and in the movie overall, relatively few people die. Kind of strange for a “bad boy” movie. Plenty of scantily clad and beautiful women, and plenty of car porn, but almost no one dying? Come on!

“Brian O’Connor” (Paul Walker) emerges on the wrong side of the law, and with Dom’s sister, “Mia” (Jordana Brewster) now pregnant, the dynamics have changed. Or have they? No. They’ll again find some un-get-around-able reason to race. Happens every time.

With three cops dead and Dom's team accused of killing them, who better to go after them than “Hobbs” (Dwayne Johnson), the FBI’s lead hunt-down man who has really been hitting the protein shakes and the weights lately. But even the Hobbs character isn’t outside the movie’s consuming black hole of car craziness: “And whatever you do, don’t let them get into cars,” he warns his team.

This revved-up (but strangely sputtering) addition to the series is full of the kind of ham-fisted characters you already expect, most of them as over-the-top as the mob boss of the city who sets his sights on making Dom and his boys pay for trying to rip him off.

Now far be it from me to not be a good sport and overlook some fakeness, some buffness, and some women of the scantily clad type that Rio is supposedly home to. And why not fudge a few laws of physics and exaggerate some close calls in death-defying stunts. I’m game. Impossible odds? I’m game for that, too. I’ll even go out of my way to put up with cool-guy lines, like: “I’m taking the GT40!” What I’m not game for is unforgivable plot logistics that are so off the edge of the envelope that they insult my intelligence.

The blunt one-liners that make up most of the exchanges in the dialog is a march forward with the development of characters we don’t want to see or hear this much of, but I'll forgive that. And what can I say? We care way more about seeing the cars and the Oceans 11-style heist that Dom is cooking up than seeing these guys “shoot da shit.”

Dominic and his team have the impossible task of getting Reyes’ money, which is not just an against-all-odds task, but “in-freakin-sanity,” as one of their own puts it. This is nothing, however, when they attempt to pull it off at the expense of our intelligence. The movie flies in the face of physics to a degree we cannot turn a blind eye to or ignore...

Hobbs meets “Elena” (Elsa Pataky), an (immensely hot) officer who stands on principle to help out the team, but she has no problem working with Dom’s team of outlaws while betraying her own people when she realizes what kind of a tough break this good “bad guy” seems to be getting in a system that goes after bad guys (oddly, in a movie where the bad guys aren’t really the bad guys). 

But the grand poobah of logistical errors is Dom’s use of two police edition Dodge Chargers with Hemi V8s to tow 10-ton safes at high speeds all around the city while being pursued by cars of the same make and strength. Mind you, these pursuing vehicles are WITHOUT the 20,000-pound loads attached, so they should easily overtake them. But the pursuing police cruisers still somehow can’t manage to get ahead of them and block them off. And a car breaking a 10-ton safe through a brick wall, attached by one cable, while racing through the city dragging it's ass on cement is way, way too much of a stretch.

Coursing with the pur of high-horsepower engines, even a pumped bicep of a movie like this can’t get away from its humble beginnings of brainless tough-guy-ism involving little more than talk of quarter-mile track times. Even at the end of the movie, we aren’t clear of the plot’s insurmountable problems when we consider that the expensive houses and cars the team buys with the loot will hardly fail to alert authorities where all that stolen money is being spent!

With the exception of the cheesy Tokyo Drift, the other films stayed well within the parameters of being all about cool guys who raced and thought they were badasses simply because they gunned their engines. This one thinks it's a badass simply because the laws of reality fail to apply to it. 

(JH)

Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content, and language)
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: “Dominic Toretto” (Vin Diesel), “Brian O’Conner” (Paul Walker), “Hobbs” (Dwayne Johnson), “Mia” (Jordana Brewster), “Roman” (Tyrese Gibson), “Tej” (Ludacris), “Vince” (Matt Schulze), “Han” (Sung Kang), “Gisele” (Gal Gadot), “Leo” (Tego Calderon), “Santos” (Don Omar), “Reyes” (Joaquim de Almeida), “Elena” (Elsa Pataky), “Zizi” (Michael Irby), “Wilkes” (Fernando Chien)
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
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