Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by Justin Lin
As Indiana Jones said back in the 1981 classic “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “It’s not the years, honey – it’s the mileage.”
But nowhere better can that quote be applied today than to the “Fast and the Furious” film series. Where most Hollywood franchises tend to run out of gas after just three installments, the “Furious” movies are, amazingly, still speeding along just fine after five. They really got back on track with the fourth chapter – 2009’s “Fast and Furious,” which reunited Vin Diesel and Paul Walker from the 2000 original – but “Fast Five” actually defies convention to fit the bill as the biggest, best and most furious “Fast” of them all.
And it does so by giving the premise a thorough tune-up that doesn’t conflict with what made the series so appealing in the first place. Fast cars are still the name of the game, but new characters are added and the setting has been relocated to a more exotic milieu. The result is a souped-up sequel that’s very entertaining from start to finish, and it’s 130-minute running time flies by so fast that you can practically smell the rubber burning from the big screen.
Picking up where part four left off, ex-cop Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) breaks his partner-in-crime Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of a prison bus, only to land both of them a new job: stealing hot new cars off a speeding train. But when that job gets botched, they reconvene in Rio, where even bigger forces are pulling the strings. Weary of being fugitives, Brian and Dominic set the stage for a heist that will pay off bigtime and set them up for life. But if the prospect of breaking into a maximum-security location isn’t daunting enough, they must also deal with the committed FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) who vows to bring them down.
“Fast Five” re-teams director Justin Lin with screenwriter Chris Morgan, who also collaborated on the last two installments. The action scenes are better than ever, but the plot is basically “Ocean’s Eleven” on wheels. In order to strip Rio’s most dangerous drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) of his fortune, Dominic and Brian call upon the usual suspects from past “Fast” movies: smooth-talking Roman (Tyrese Gibson, from 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious”), ace racer Han (Sung Kang, from 2006’s “Tokyo Drift”) and safecracker Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, also from “2 Fast 2 Furious”). The plan is familiar, but the execution is all the more exciting.
But let’s not build up “Fast Five” too much here. As with it’s predecessors, the dialogue is cheesy, and the acting is, well, never mind about the acting, although Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson seems to be having a blast with a good fun role. Jordana Brewster has little to do (although her character does reveal a crucial plot point), but Walker and Diesel still have great chemistry, and the film delivers the goods where they count the most: stunts and car chases that will keep you on the edge of your seat, while the elaborate spectacles that start and end the film could give Michael Bay’s movies a run for their money.
The summer movie season doesn’t officially start until May 6 (with the release of “Thor”), but “Fast Five” jumps the gun by pulling out of the gate one week sooner. Smart move, and given how surprisingly good it is, and given how much the last installment made worldwide (over $350 million), there’s every reason to believe that the “Fast” series has enough gas left in the tank to take a few more laps around the world.
Because after all, it’s not the years – it’s the mileage.
Verdict: SEE IT!