Friday, May 6, 2011
Fast Five (Release Date: 4-29-2011)
It comes as a bit of a surprise then that Fast Five does slightly stray from the street-car racing formula of its forbearers. As was the case with Fast & Furious, the series' fourth entry that jump-started what was thought to be a dead franchise, the stars of the original film, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, are back to lead the way. As the movie opens, Diesel's Dominic Toretto is being sentenced and carted off to prison. Walker's Brian O'Conner, along with his lover and Toretto's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), bust him out within three minutes of the film's opening, and after swiping some sexy cars from a gaggle face-less baddies, they're off to Rio de Janeiro to hide out. Here, they recruit what I'm imagining is the entire supporting cast from the first four entries (forgive me for my non-encyclepedic knowledge of this film series) to pull off one last job against a local drug lord. As if the con weren't enough to deal with, the gang also has a ruthless secret agent on their tail, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Car-racing, fist-fights, bikinis, and limitless gunfire ensue.
It takes a very special movie to make Paul Walker look like the best actor on screen, but Fast Five is up to the task. In fact, it's gung-ho about fulfilling just about every B-movie touchstone in the book, and one has to give it credit for being so self-aware. The audience that I saw the movie in was in on the joke, erupting into laughter and/or applause whenever the boys emerged unscathed from yet another certain-death situation. The Rock is in especially fine form, his character so completely and utterly indistinguishable from his normative persona that giving him a name seems completely beside the point. If Universal was to offer a five dollar bill to anyone who could remember his character's name upon exiting the theater, they wouldn't be out a dime. His hamminess is the best hamminess in the flick, not that Vin Diesel's isn't a welcome second. As a matter of fact, Fast Five is the best-worst acted movie I've seen in a long time, and yes, that is a compliment.
In the end, however, Fast Five falls victim to the short-coming that most purposely dunder-headed movies bump up against: It's not smart enough to hold an audience's attention. Sure, the action sequences are sometimes inspired, but they're no where near high enough up in the mix, accounting for only about half of the movie's runtime, leaving the rest to scenes of woefully uninspired drama. Transitioning the racing series into a heist franchise would seem like a clever move, but the scenes in which they plan the big break-in play as if they were written by an eight-year-old, which is hilarious and awesome for the first few minutes, then dreadfully boring thereafter. Like just about everyone else, I too am susceptible to the charms of scantly clad women, fast cars, and rampant, purposeless, consequence-free destruction, but that doesn't make the other stuff any easier to sit through. If ever a movie deserved a shrug as its primary description, it would be Fast Five, but I have to imagine that if you have any interest in seeing it, hearing that probably won't dissuade you.