Review: Fast Five
Well, shit. If the first four Fast and the Furious films didn’t leave audiences foaming at the mouth and storming theaters, why not make a fifth? Who cares if the plot points are thin, acting is questionable and stunts are over the top? The first four installments have made a total of about 961 million dollars and in this economy we’ve gotta take everything we can get. We’ll release it in April, make a few million and call it a day.
That’s how I’d like to imagine the conversation between director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan as they sat down to pen Fast Five. There’s something about this series that has tapped into America’s subconscious need for speed, so much so that Fast Five opened with an April record 86.2 million dollar box office. Yep, that puts it over a billion dollars in total gross for the series and simultaneously makes me want to weep quietly in a corner. Is it the fast cars? The women? Please don’t tell me it’s Vin Diesel.
Fast Five sets itself in Rio de Janeiro, although any generic South American city probably would’ve worked. The only way we can tell it’s Brazil is that some of the characters speak Portuguese (a plot point that must be explained to audiences in a mini-history lesson from the film’s antagonist) and that there are repeated shots of Christ the Redeemer lording over the proceedings. Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their band of merry car thieves have fled to this haven of drugs and dirty deeds to elude capture from the US government, which is now blaming them for the death of three DEA agents on top of the mess they’ve already created for themselves. It quickly becomes clear to the team that they need to do one last job to guarantee their freedom, or safety, or whatever it is they want. Morgan and Lin want us to think this is different than the one last job that ended the first four Furious faux pas, which is laughable, but at this point they clearly understand something about our culture that the rest of us don’t so I won’t continue to complain.
When Dominic and Brian are the only two characters with last names it says something about the simplicity of the story. Even Mia, Dom’s sister played by Jordana Brewster, doesn’t ever use her last name. Neither does the rest of the Ocean’s 11 style crew that Dom and Brian piece together in the blink of an eye. One notable member of the crew is Ludacris, who plays a mechanic from Chicago. His acting chops, honed in films like Crash, are wasted here, even though his character gets more back story than anyone else. It’s a smart move for Morgan because it allows us to focus on more important issues like cars and guns.
One thing the Furious flicks do well is music. It helps, of course, when a well-known rapper is one of the actors, but there is no shortage of rap beats and chase scene hip-hop. It helps the movie flow better than one might expect, but mostly because the whole exercise feels like an obscenely long music video. Hot women + fancy guns + The Rock sweating more than a teenager illegally downloading their first album = what Bad Boys II should’ve been for the music industry: a bonafide two hour thrill ride that makes you want to buy the soundtrack and relive the movie all over again.
Maybe it’s just that simple. Maybe all it takes for a movie to make money these days are some guns, women in bikinis and fast cars. If so, I’m worried for what that says about our culture and the world at large. We’re in a time of globalization, where products are spread more than ever before, and this is the product we want to share? What does that say about the state of films in the United States or where they are headed?
Of course, I could just be taking this way too seriously. Fast Five is certainly fun, if nothing else. Big explosions usually have that effect. Where Five fails is in its script. There is no depth in any character unless they’ve been in another Furious foray, and the dialogue reads like a children’s novel. When the Rock hears he’s got some good news and bad news, he responds, “You know I like my dessert first.” Really? You do? Well how about you eat your mashed potatoes and then maybe we’ll think about dessert. “Gimme the veggies.” Excuse me, The Rock, you don’t get your veggies until someone rewrites this entire scene.
It’s hard to make a final judgment on Fast Five. On one hand, it’s awful - just a terrible, god-forsaken excuse for a movie. But to be fair, it’s not anywhere near as bad as the Titanic II’sor 2010: Moby Dick’s of today’s cinema. It makes you smile, laugh and you leave the theater feeling like a million bucks. So what do we make of that? I could tell you, but there are 86.2 million ways I might be wrong.