Somewhere, Martin Scorsese is weeping and Tarantino is crying by proxy.

Theatrical Release Date: 04/29/2011
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Dwayne Johnson, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.
Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes


He’s driving AS HARD AS HE CAN!

Say goodbye to the laws of physics and check believability at the door, it’s time for another joyride with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in “Fast Five”.

Now for those of you who have been carefully following these films (I won’t ask why), you know that the third one (“Tokyo Drift“) takes place AFTER the fourth (“Fast & Furious“). Thankfully, number five picks up right where the last one ended so there isn’t any more confusion regarding the series’ timeline (It’s 1-2-4-5-3 for those keeping score).

Really, this is sort of an All-Star game for the franchise. Nearly every major player is either part of the main cast or gets a cameo (stay through the credits for some hints as to where they plan to go with the sixth film, which is already in development). The issues of the timeline really only concern one actor, Sung Kang, who is the lone “Tokyo Drift” inclusion (he also had a cameo in “Fast & Furious”). I would imagine this stems from his prior work with director Justin Lin (who also directed him in the 2002 film “Better Luck Tomorrow”).

In any case, combining all of these actors gives the film an “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe that works nicely enough. This is especially apropos as the story is essentially a heist tangled up within the inclusion of bringing The Rock in as a badass FBI bounty hunter. Writer Chris Morgan even went so far as to set up Diesel and Walker as the de facto George Clooney and Brad Pitt, gathering their team together based on their individual skills and how they can help steal a metric butt-load of money from a Brazilian drug kingpin who makes the fatal mistake of antagonizing an elite crew of criminals.

The action is done decently for the most part, mixing in a favela rooftop chase and Diesel vs. Rock smack down along with a few setups of vehicular lunacy and plenty of gunplay. Collateral damage is amped up as much as possible, to satisfy gamers who play the Burnout franchise on their consoles, but as alluded to at the start of this review, don’t expect realism or the laws of physics to be observed. The climactic finale, where our protagonists are dragging a huge vault through downtown Rio, throws away the notion of momentum and weight entirely … but by this point in the film, anyone still attempting to utilize their brain as anything more than a visual processing center clearly walked into the wrong theater.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is Lin’s ability to pace the story; with a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes, and considering this isn’t Shakespeare, the film chugs along nicely, rarely slowing down and shifting quickly from one action scene to another. As such, the acting issues that normally arise when one centers a film around Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were minimized. Simply put, they aren’t given enough continuous dialogue on which to hang themselves too much. Having Dwayne Johnson around doesn’t hurt things either, as he is the most believable action star of the bunch (by several miles) and added a nice burst of energy to the mix.

Boiling it all down, this isn’t something one really recommends; By now, you are either in the demographic that enjoys these brainless, testosterone-filled test drives or you aren’t. However, if you dig such fare, “Fast Five” is the most entertaining of the bunch and gets a 3.5 out of 5, delivering on its promises and making for the best popcorn flick of the year so far. For all of its flaws and simply ridiculous setups, it bucks the general rule that sequels can’t be as good as the original and is perhaps the best in the series … of course, this means much less when taking the franchise into perspective but better is better, right?

3.5 out of 5