Fast Five Review: Between the Rock and a Heist Movie

A fight between Diesel and the Rock. What more do you want?
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Although the previous movie, Fast & Furious, showed the least amount of creativity in its title by removing "the" and adding an ampersand, it returned the franchise to its box-office glory, and more importantly, proved to be my favorite movie of the four.  The title Fast Five also inspires little confidence, but what will be the end result?

When last we saw the gang, Dom (Vin Diesel) was headed to Lompoc prison on a bus, although his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her boyfriend Brian (Paul Walker), who resigned from a law enforcement agency for the second time, intended to free him.  They accomplish their task at the beginning of this movie and all become fugitives. 

Cut to Rio, Brazil, where Vince (Matt Schulze) takes them in.  He gets them a job stealing three cars off a moving train, which gets all gummed up because conflict has to be created in the script.  More specifically, one guy wants a specific car out of the three, though I am not sure why they wouldn’t have gotten it if they had just gone along with the plan.  Instead, Dom gets suspicious, and the heist implodes as the crew battle each other.  There's an impressive crash of a large truck into a train car and the sequence ends with a car driving off a cliff into a lake that is so spectacularly laughable, if it wasn't so funny, it would be groan inducing.

The operation is considered a failure by local crime boss Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) because he didn't get his car.  It turns out there was a computer chip hidden on it inexplicably containing data about all of his operations, including where he stashed vast sums of money.  Once the gang discovers this, Vince thinks about blackmailing Reyes.  When Dom gets wind of Vince's plan, he boots him out.

Staying ahead of an angry Reyes and the people working for him would have been tough enough, but there were U.S. DEA agents on the train who were killed, resulting in Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) leading a team after Dom and the gang as well.  Both groups descend on the their hideout at the same time, leading to a wild chase through the favelas and across rooftops.

Dom decides to rip off Reyes, who hides his money at a police station, and it's in this moment that cements the franchise has switched from being about driving to being about heists.  They need to put together a team a la Ocean's 11, so they gather a group of familiar faces, such as Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej  (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges).  Naturally, they need another car, so Dom and Brian head out to race someone for the pink slip.  Altering expectations, they cut to them driving up having already won it, which we all know they would have.

At the hideout, Hobbs and his men show up, and viewers get what they had been expecting since seeing the names in the opening credits: a fight between Diesel and the Rock.  When it's over, the gang are taken to the airport for extradition, but Reyes' men ambush the convoy.  After taking many fatalities to his team, Hobbs joins with Dom to take Reyes down.

Fast Five did not need to be over two hours.  While there's a lot of good action, there is way too much exposition and too many characters that need moments, causing the pacing to bog down.  The writers seem to think it's an on-going drama like a TV series where viewers care about the characters, so we get news that Mia is expecting Brian's baby.  Also, the gang does a massive amount of damage, and would have killed a lot of folks, so it's hard to root for them in the end. 

Justin Lin's directing and the editing cause some of the action to be unclear.  During a number of scenes, I found myself wondering how something happened and went back to try and understand it.  Also, there's a twist at the end that makes no sense when the truth is revealed.  Since the gang knew what was going on, and no other character is around to witness the misdirection, it's only purpose is to trick the audience, which is a lame decision.

They go out with a bang because the post-credit scene is a mind-blower.  Agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) gives Hobbs a file he'll be interested in.  There's been a robbery of a military convoy in Berlin.  He assumes it's Dom, but instead it's the surprising return of another character from the franchise. 

While I didn't enjoy Fast Five as much as Fast & Furious, there were enough fun moments that it wasn't a waste of time like some of the other installments.  I am curious about Fast & Furious 6, even though I am disappointed to learn it also runs over two hours.

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