April 29, 2011 in Features

When taking ‘Five,’ don’t think too hard

Connie Ogle Miami Herald
 

Vin Diesel, left, and Dwayne Johnson face off in a scene from “Fast Five.”
(Full-size photo)

The fifth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise is big, loud, long and stupid.

Its leading man is a charisma-free block of muscle, and its plot features holes big enough to drive a semi through (which these characters could and would do without hesitation).

It’s also embarrassingly fun – the sort of speedy, senseless, violence-crammed action flick that virtually defines the summer season, with superheroes who aren’t gods or crusaders in tights but guys in T-shirts and jeans who can drive cars really fast.

The creators of the series changed things up a bit in “Fast Five,” directed by Justin Lin, who also helmed “Fast & Furious” (No. 4) and “Tokyo Drift” (No. 3).

It’s morphed from a race to a heist movie – think “Ocean’s 11” without the glam of the Bellagio – with a couple of excellent car chases and vicious fights.

When last we saw our heroes, Dom (Vin Diesel) and former FBI agent Brian (Paul Walker), the latter was breaking the former out of state custody by crashing the prison-bound bus in which Dom was riding.

“Fast Five” opens with that rescue, following Dom, Brian and Dom’s sister/Brian’s girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) on the lam into the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro.

Prudence suggests they should lie low. And yet, they’re still tempted by the lure of Hollywood’s bright and shiny cliche, the “one last job,” so that they can take the money and disappear off the radar for good.

Trouble is, the job goes awry (after the robbery of a moving train with a jaw-dropping ending). The trio discovers a secret hidden in one of the cars they steal, and soon they’re at odds not only with a Rio crime lord (Joaquim de Almeida) but also a pumped-up federal agent (Dwayne Johnson, in full rage mode) determined to bring them home to face justice.

The film is as silly as all this sounds, and yet somehow it works, so long as you don’t dwell on such questions as: If these guys are so broke, how can they afford an endless supply of equipment to set up the heist? Why would a pretty female agent be so easily swayed by Dom, who possesses all the charm of an engine block?

And why is Johnson glistening like he’s just greased up for a wrestling match?

Fortunately the action is well choreographed and intense enough to take your mind off such musings. And a mostly funny supporting cast – including Tyrese Gibson as the group’s dynamic sweet talker and rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as a guy who just wants enough money to open a garage – distracts you from the hilarity of scenes that require Diesel to exhibit emotion.

This franchise has primarily been aimed at young male viewers, but the screenwriters have also apparently wised up to the fact that they bring their girlfriends along, and so a family-oriented theme runs throughout.

That – along with a teaser ending setting up a “Fast Six” – indicates this franchise has no plans ever to slow down.


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