2013 FF: I liked “The Fast and the Furious” franchise well enough through its first four films. I appreciated them for what they were — slick cars, hot women, pulsating soundtracks and a decent, if unremarkable plot. Then “Fast 5″ arrived and it made me see the series in a new, far more awesome light. Amazing what one great movie will do for a franchise, isn’t it?
It’s a rare franchise that really hits its groove in its fifth installment, but with its shiny rims, jacked up cast and wildly over the top action, “Fast 5” shifts to new gear that races ahead of the pack to kick off the summer movie season and just might leave every other blockbuster in the dust.
Director Justin Lin and Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who showed there’s plenty of tread left on this franchise’s tires with the “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “Fast & Furious,” reunite to tell the further adventures of Dominic (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster).
In true chop shop fashion, Lin and Morgan take the best characters from the first four films, a side of shoot-em-ups like “Bad Boys 2,” the outlaw on the run feel of “The Fugitive” and liberal helpings of elements from heist films like “The Italian Job” to assemble the best model Fast and Furious yet.
Similar to a James Bond film, the first act features a stunt so insane that if you can buy into that without questioning physics, momentum or anything else remotely involving logic, you won’t have any problem going along with anything else specifically the thrilling final act.
After springing Dom from police custody, Brian and Mia are fugitives. The trio stages another daring, high-risk auto theft job in Rio, but the deal goes bad and their shady employer, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), sets them up with killing federal agents, putting them in the crosshairs of super-agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his team, joined by the just a bit too hot to be a cop, Elena (Elsa Pataky). Fortunately Lin doesn’t cheat us on the action star dream match of Rock vs. Diesel.
Realizing they can’t keep running forever, Dom, Brian and Mia decide on one last major score — stealing Reyes’ fortune — but need some help staying ahead of Reyes’ goons and Hobbs and his agents.
Matt Schulze’s Vince is back from the original “The Fast and the Furious” while Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris reprise their “2Fast 2Furious” roles as fast-talking Roman and tech-whiz Tej; Sung Kang returns to play Han — my favorite character from “Drift” — and they’re joined by franchise newcomers Gisele (Gal Gadot), Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar) who make for welcome additions to the ensemble.
The film is more than two hours, but Lin and Morgan never make it drag while giving each character adequate screen time so it’s not just the Diesel and Walker show. Kang remains smooth while having decent chemistry with Gadot and Gibson and Ludacris are entertaining enough that I’d watch a spin-off of their antics.
For a “car racing” movie, Lin doesn’t limit the action to cars adding in shootouts, foot chases and brawls to the mix. It helps prevent audience fatigue when it does come down to car chases and big time stunts.
When word first came out of a fifth “Fast and Furious” film, it seemed doubtful the creators could come up with any new twists out of what had become a formulaic franchise, but this latest installment is like a shot of nitro and shows there’s plenty left in the tank. My only hope is they’re not too slow in cranking out a sixth edition.
Rating: 9 out of 10