Fast Five (2011)

Directed by Justin Lin
Written by Chris Morgan

So here we are, smack dab in the middle of the franchise, and we have finally struck gold. While I mentioned that Fast & Furious was the first film to feel like the current franchise as we know it, I think Fast Five may be the crowning achievement of everything we’ve been working towards. I’ve seen this film before, and even reviewed it previously. I was more lukewarm on it then. I like to think this rewatch has shown me three things: perhaps in 2011 my respect and love for genre movies was not what it is now (no longer a “snob”?), the film, within the context of the entire franchise, is much more than just a snippet I saw in 2011 without said context, and finally that this is just simply a hell of a film!

Brian (Paul Walker), Dom (Vin Diesel) and crew are on the run after the actions of Fast & Furious, landing in Rio where an old friend (Matt Schulze) has a job for them. But when the job goes sideways, Brian and Dom must call on their loyal crew (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot) to pull off one last job for enough cash that they can all live out their lives as they please, no longer on the run. But this job comes with complications in the form of their target, a notorious Rio drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) and a superhero federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) on their tail.

I still wonder what the plan for this franchise was in the beginning, or at least after the success of the first prompted them to franchise the idea. Because this definitely feels like the franchise turning the corner. And with the continual involvement of Han (Kang), and the constant references to Tokyo, I wonder whether they’re embracing the narrative failure that was Tokyo Drift, or if we ever get caught up in the timeline for it to fit into this new look series. Regardless, Han is one of my favorite characters, along with Gisele (Gadot), so his continued inclusion in these films is great, no matter how confusing or nonsensical. But it feels like with 4 and now 5, the writer/director duo of Chris Morgan and Justin Lin finally have a plan laid out for where this is going. And they have embraced that storyline and filled it with incredible action.

There are a couple action sequences here that are among the best, and yes perhaps ludicrous (pun intended), that I’ve seen in the last 20 years of filmmaking. The train heist, the chase through the rooftops of the Favela, and the piece de resistance: the bank vault scene. These action scenes fuel the movie and make it a spectacle you can’t miss. The filmmakers have taken a humble car culture movie and with Fast Five turned it into an important action movie franchise. A truly remarkable achievement. And what’s more is that the groundwork put forth in those first four films is really paying off because in addition to just being a great action film, Fast Five also cherishes its characters, their history, and their family. Vin Diesel’s lines about family may be cheesy, but they’re somehow felt with the evolution of the crew over five installments, which manages to enhance the movie even further.

We get a true heist movie, and it’s incredibly exciting. But as with any great heist movie, the chemistry of the team is central. Tyrese and Ludacris playing off one another, Gadot and Kang’s chemistry together, everything clicks into place as designed perfectly in Fast Five. Even, and perhaps especially, the inclusion of The Rock can’t derail this perfection. Dwayne Johnson is great here, and very sweaty! It’s a perfect role for him and just the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae. Truly, this may be one of the most ridiculous movies out there, but somehow it works, and I think giving in to its joy of the impossible is the key to loving this movie. And I love this movie, all the way down to its impossible post-credits twist. I think it’ll be hard to live up to this greatness for the rest of the series, but I can’t wait to find out where the story goes!

★★★★☆ – LOVED IT

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