Monday, May 2, 2011

Movie with Abe: Fast Five

Fast Five
Directed by Justin Lin
Released April 29, 2011

There’s a reason that the fifth entry in the “Fast and the Furious” series is getting the best reviews of any of the five films so far. The second and third movies in the franchise shouldn’t be considered since they didn’t include star Vin Diesel, and the fourth was merely a successful reboot that helped bring back the elements that made the first one work so well. “Fast Five” is an entirely different beast, assembling a slew of actors from all four previous films to create a wholly entertaining and enthralling action piece that stretches beyond the world of car racing and delivers far beyond expectations.

In previous films, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) was a cop, and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) was a criminal. The lines were blurred as early as the first film, and by the fourth, it was clear that Brian’s allegiances were to Dom above anything else. The two men and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) are on the run at the start of this entry, but they’re not merely trying to stay one step ahead of the law. Brian, Dom, and Mia feel the “need for speed” and can’t hope to resist a good car heist. The same is true of the colorful cast of characters they invite to join them in Rio to rip off a powerful drug kingpin named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) who has put a price on their heads. None of these guys is a hardcore criminal, but there’s something about breaking the law that excites and entices them.

“Fast Five” proves that this franchise has officially evolved from a car movie into a heist movie, wisely relegating its car racing scenes mostly to mid-heist getaway driving, thereby making everything more universally enjoyable. This film manages to follow up on the awesome ending of the fourth film by expanding the scene to make it even more eye-popping and impressive, and then features one of the most awesome action sequences in recent years in its first half hour. The movie doesn’t let up after that, and it’s a blast all the way through. This is one of those rare times where 130 minutes is not too long.

Reuniting cast members from previous films and having them meet each other is a superb idea, and it’s a tribute to the effectiveness of this series that a dozen actors from the past ten years were willing to come back to the project. The result is a blast, and each personality is given just the right amount of room to shine, making this feel a lot like “Ocean’s Eleven,” in the most complimentary sense. It may be hard to place what specific role in which film each character played, but it doesn’t matter since they’re all so much fun together. The Rock, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, is a fabulous addition as an adrenaline-addled agent hot on our heroes’ trail, and one of the most energizing parts of the film is to see him and Diesel brawl hand-to-hand and compete to see who can more aggressively jump through windows. Those with less apparent interesting in the actual acting, such as Diesel and Walker, are smartly given few lines and much more body language to work with instead. This is a film that starts out strong and doesn’t let up until after the end credits, when a jaw-dropping scene paves the way for a sixth film that couldn’t come soon enough. This is a definitive action movie that fires on all cylinders and provide preposterously huge levels of entertainment.


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