Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FAST FIVE (2011)

Let me preface this review of the latest FAST AND THE FURIOUS entry by admitting that this is my first F&F movie.  So there is a good chance I have missed subtle character development begun in a previous installment or failed to grasp the significance of some revelatory moment or scene.  F&F completists may justifiably complain about my limited knowledge of the film series’ mythology.  To them I say:  whatever, just shut up and drive.  Before the opening title Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and squeeze Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) stage a prison break by spectacularly overturning a bus full of inmates on an open highway (a TV news report is careful to note that there were no casualties!?).  One of those inmates is Mia’s brother Dominic (Vin Diesel), and the trio meets in Rio de Janeiro to join Vince (Matt Schulze) in a daring train heist to fill their empty coffers.  But the heist goes wrong when hired thugs of local criminal overlord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) betray our team of honorable thieves and kill some federal agents in the process.  This brings Dominic and company to the attention of relentless agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson fka The Rock), who arrives in Rio with his team to stop them.  Despite being caught between a Rock (sorry) and a hard place, Dominic hatches a plan to steal all of Reyes’ money.  To achieve this he calls into action several characters (I assume) from previous films, including Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), among others.  Director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan are on solid ground when their characters are behind the wheel.  The train heist and the film’s final half hour are action-packed – imaginative, exciting, and gloriously ridiculous.  However, the filmmakers have B-grade OCEAN’S 11 ambitions, and the middle hour sags as actors, whose abilities range from adequate to awful, are asked to be witty, charming and engaging.  These sides of beef are better served in fast cars, driving furiously.  Because when they are, this movie is tons of fun.  When they’re not, it’s a drag.  Just shut up and drive.

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