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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Movie Review: Fast Five (2011)

The pattern seems to be that we usually do two movie reviews in succcession, and this time it's no exception. I guess it's because the big movies usually come out to compete with each other around the same time. Fast Five zooms (sorry, I cannot resist a car pun when I'm doing a review on a car movie :p) into cinemas to compete with Thor.

The cast of Fast Five.


You usually have a showdown between the good guys and the bad guys; well, in Fast Five, they take it up an extra notch by having a showdown between the good guys, the morally grey guys, and the bad guys. Lots of action ensues.

Before we continue, it might be useful to point out that Fast Five (#5) actually takes place after the Fast movies number #1 (The Fast and the Furious), #2 (2 Fast 2 Furious) & #4 (Fast & Furious) but before #3 (The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift). Confused? Yeah, me too. Basically, Tokyo Drift is sort of a stand-alone and a sequel to all these other movies that they've put out or are going to put out.

This instalment takes place after the incidents of movie #4, where Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) was sentenced to jail and then-FBI agent Brian O'Connor and Dom's sister Mia (played by Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster respectively) show up to intercept it and rescue him. They then split up, agreeing to meet in Rio de Janeiro.

There, Brian & Mia meet up with Vince (Matt Schulze; this is apparently a character from the first movie but my memory is kinda hazy seeing as it was a decade ago!) where they agree to partake in a car heist job. Dom shows up with the other accomplices during the heist, but the heist goes terribly awry and some DEA agents fall in the line of duty while protecting those cars. Some time during the heist, they also realize that the car heist is a scam, and that the person behind it, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), is only actually after one car.

Because they like to take trouble by the horns, Dom tells Mia to jet off in the wanted car, and in the process, they severely piss Hernan Reyes off, who is only the most powerful and corrupt man in the whole of Rio.

On the run... again.

The interesting Brazilian setting makes for great foot-chase scenes.

Not before long, Reyes is after them and the item that's in the wanted car which is now in their possession. And because he's so powerful and corrupt, he has the whole of Rio after Dom, Brian & Mia. The trio are now on the run and forced into hiding once again. This time, however; they decide they're tired of running, so they devise one last massive job to rob Reyes in order to stop running and looking over their shoulders all their lives, and be truly free (Well, not presumably free, but free as a huge vaultful of money can make you).

They rope in their friends from the other Fast & Furious installments to plan the biggest heist of their lives which could ultimately result in 10 million dollars apiece. But, it's not that easy, because not only are they fighting against Reyes and his men, they are also the target of U.S. Security Service agents led by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "can you smell what The Rock is cooking" Johnson) and his local aide, Elena (Elsa Pataky) for that stunt they pulled off by saving Dom in movie #4.

On the run from more than one.

So with two forces running after our antiheroes, who gets out alive?


Fast Five is slick, over-the-top cool, daring and so action-packed that it's difficult to look away from the screen for even a second. It fulfills all requirements of a summer blockbuster; that is, fast cars, explosions, guns and of course, the customary hot, tough women.

Following in the footsteps of it's predecessor Fast & Furious (movie #4), it reunites the original cast from the first movie again. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Jordana Brewster all return; with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez's character Leticia "Letty" Ortiz (also Dom's love interest) who died in #4 which is really sad, because Fast Five doesn't feel the same without tough, wise-cracking Letty, the only girl who ever gave Dom a run for his money.

Fast's two leading men, Vin Diesel & Paul Walker are again solid. Really, not much acting is required in action movies like this, but Dom & Brian are roles that Diesel & Walker have really made their own. In fact, Diesel is so much Dom Toretto that I've all but started to think of them as one and the same. Heh. Diesel's every cocky smirk, face-twitch, jaw-tightening quirk add to the aloof, strong, tough demeanour of Dom.

Paul Walker, on the other hand, whom I guess is now an ex-FBI agent, also produces his standard Brian O'Connor performance. However, unlike the first movie, we no longer see any internal struggles, wavering between good or bad. Brian has presumably comfortably settled being in the morally grey, and that doesn't give Walker much to work with at all besides looking cool and saying cool lines. Again, it really doesn't matter in a movie like Fast Five.

The two work well with each other, both in scenes against each other where they constantly butting heads over Mia, or in scenes where they work together or race alongside each other. The two are a force to be reckoned with when put together, and that shows in the final road scene which kept me on the edge of my seat.

Of course, I can't talk about the two men without mentioning the latest addition to the cast, The Rock/Dwayne Johnson as Agent Hobbs. The Rock (and his perpetual frown and comical eyebrow raise) serves as "star power" to this instalment, and his character, Hobbs moves the plot along nicely. I don't know about you, but I could never take him seriously in movies, and this one is no exception. His acting here pales in comparison opposite Diesel & Walker.

From one bald, buff bad-ass to another.

(I also suspect he had to grow that horrible looking beard for this movie just to set him apart from his also bald, also buff co-star.)

Even though The Rock is slightly bigger and stockier than Diesel, Diesel just oozes charisma on screen and because of that, is more imposing and threatening. The two challenge each other on screen great, and that leads to a lot of chest-to-chest show downs, fist-fights and wrestling for us to enjoy. (Wonder if The Rock had to go easy on Vin Diesel with the wrestling :p)

Hobbs and his chosen local officer to help him around, Elena (played by Elsa Pataky).

Elsa Pataky (Pataky also happens to be the wife of Chris Hemsworth who was the star of Thor - wonder how that blockbuster competition affects them at home. Heh.) is also another new face, but I don't see any point of her character besides creating a new love interest for Dom in the wake of Letty's death. Hobbs said he wants a local translator from Rio, but she only does what seems like all of 10 seconds of translation in the movie.

But what makes things even more fun is that Fast Five also reunites a lot of the supporting characters from the previous movies for the large ensemble heist - the cool Han (Sung Kang) from Tokyo Drift, the bickering Tej & Roman (the two singer/rappers, Ludacris & Tyrese respectively), the Spanish duo, Santos & Leo (Don Omar & Tego Calderon) and beauty Gisele (Gal Gadot; who was Miss Israel 2004). The ensemble work well together, providing a lot of the comedic moments and family-like banter as they plan and work towards the heist of their lives. Probably my favourite parts of the movies after the heist scenes.

Tyrese & Ludacris provide good laughs.
Fan favourite Han (Sung Kang) from Tokyo Drift.

Israeli beauty, Gal Gadot as Gisele.

Gisele & Han test out a new way to get fingerprints. Watch out for this scene in the movie.

Santos & Leo on an interesting mission. Another funny highlight of the movie!

Car enthusiasts might be a bit disappointed with Fast Five - the movie doesn't showcase as much street racing as compared to before. There are a few great scenes involving cars and drifting but I suspect car fans and original Fast movie fans might leave the cinema wanting more. For me however, what was lacking in cars more than made up for the other action. There was lots of exciting chases, gun fights, and accidents to keep me well entertained in its 130 minutes.

The movie also changes direction a little by focusing largely on the heist, because it seems that's what makes a good movie these days. A large ensemble reminiscient going to steal something (Think Ocean's 11, Takers, Inception - okay well maybe Inception was a little anti-heist; their ensemble went to plant something rather than steal something) but strangely, it works for Fast Five, because the heist, with the signature car scenes, made for a great combination. The movie also tries to inject some feelings amidst all that action; it shows Brian worrying if he'll ever be a good father, or Dom still hurting over Letty's loss but that intent is inevitably lost amidst the action.

Verdict: To sum things up, Fast Five is a movie of bangs and booms and pows, but one was was jam-packed with fun, with the cool factor sky-high. It is also probably one that your girlfriend will watch willingly (and enjoy!) with you.

P/S: Oh, and there's a little treat in a short scene after the credits roll so be sure to stay for it if you've watched Fast movie #1 or #4. If you didn't, it probably won't make much sense to you, but still, it points towards the story for Fast #6!

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