Below is the unedited version of our review published May 15th 2011, in our film review column “Animadversion” (iMAGES on Sunday, Dawn Newspaper).
Rev-em-up and Go Action!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
The Pitch – Linking at the climax of “Fast & Furious”, the briefly jailed and still unruffled ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) flees to sweeping shots of Rio de Janeiro in time to find his recently pregnant sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and ex-cop turned buddy, Brian (Paul Walker), getting involved in a heist that runs them afoul of Rio’s current god-father (Joaquim de Almeida). On top of this, the U.S. government sic’s F.B.I no-stops, bull-dog Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail. To spark up the jumble, Brian and Dom invite almost all essential cronies from the last four “Fast and Furious” films and hatch a plan to rip the white-collar mob-boss off of $100 million. In “Fast Five” payback is sweeter when you leave them penniless and dead.
Action movies have it tough; they’ve had it tough for a while now. Franchises have it tougher. From finding the right title, to dutifully sticking to the original idea, to sifting the mess left by the last film, to maybe adding a menacing, charismatic, villain to the mix. All this and the haunting question of attracting the female set to a hot, hard and testosterone prevailing guy–flick. “Fast Five”, running in theatres worldwide, has all this down pat.
The title is stripped to bare essentials (“Fast” and “Five”); the obligation of vrooming, car-action is kept as the big bookend sequences. Bikini’s and sweaty women promenading their assets – plenteous in Rio de Janeiro, where the film is set – are restricted to two small, chicly executed, scenes (mainly to maintain the PG-13 rating). Instead of focusing on a big bad charismatic villain (Mr. de Almeida, stereotyped as a white collar Rio mob-boss), we have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel beating the tar out of each other and the production design. For the girlies, “Fast Five” slides-in binding family ties and a pregnancy subplot in the background.
It’s all good, clean fun up right up to the post-end clip, where Hobbs gets a starring ticket in “Fast Six”.
Justin Lin, the series’ consistent director (he jumped aboard after the abysmal “2 Fast 2 Furious”) and writer Chris Morgan (“Fast & Furious”), shuttle through prerequisites without putting up a fight. Their alternative is to make everything unpretentious, but never artless. The bookend robberies then, are as simple as punching a hole in the wall.
The first of them, though not really a robbery, is the brief pre-title escape where Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker topple a police-bus to rescue Vin Diesel; the second (and my favorite) is the amped up train robbery, custom made for the big screen wow-experience; there’s a three-way rooftop run over a ghetto (the police vs. Dom’s team vs. the hoods); and finally the city-smashing climax that has Mr. Walker and Mr. Diesel hauling a life-sized, security vault through Rio on two race cars, burning rubber and thrashing traffic (somehow, they do it without killing bystanders).
As Dom Mr. Diesel, now beefed-up as a miniature gorilla, shifts between grunts and smiles and the occasional burdened expression that explain he’s still “Five’s” stanched pillar; his only shake down is when he collides head-on with “The Rock”, who Mr. Walker explains as “old testament”; a “blood, bullets, wrath of god” type guy.
With a beard right out of 1001 Arabian Nights, “The Rock” looks the part. As the literal big man in Rio (he is taller than Mr. Diesel), he walks into a ghetto full of armed impoverished, and brow-beats them with his alpha-dog persona.
With the two alphas in place, the rest are shifted down as specialists and comedy relief.
Mr. Walker (wooden) and Ms. Brewster, active more in the first act, are relaxed to comfy, almost off-screen positions, in the second act when the six gung-ho auxiliary characters kick in. They are: Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Tego Calderón, Don Omar and former Miss Israel, Gal Gadot, whose finger-print getting method gets a seal of approval from men of all ages!
Released by Universal. “Fast Five” is rated PG-13. Pumped up bodies crash into each other. Cars go vroom. Guns go boom. The B-roll camera nearly misses Christ of the Andes every time it flies over Rio.
By Farheen Jawaid
There’s a new heart beating in “Fast Five”. That beating heart comes from multiple characters of past movies of the Fast and the Furious franchise that come onboard with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster. This new heart is composed of another element: simpler, clearer storytelling. One that’s clearly defined by formulaic rules of screenwriting; even when “Five” is melodramatic or preposterous the action never hits the speed breaker because of them.
Director Justin Lin, who made “Tokyo Drift” and “Fast and Furious”, keeps it straight and crisp. In the trademark way of the franchise the action is mostly physical and fast and furious, but can still be seen and understood (unlike most action movies edited today). Even the returning cast has intelligently allotted screen-time, which gives a nice comedic and human edge to Dom’s team.
However, not every action is in the streets, or cars. In one growl-fest Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) engage in a verbal chew-down alpha-contest and in another scene, not too far away, they tear down walls in a no-holds-barred fisticuff (made me thankful for the safety of the screen I was seeing it from). As an action movie, the tremendous racing sequences, especially the climactic heist chase, is the cake and their brawling is the icing.
Downright, high-octane fun, this one!
The link to the published version is: