Even though it’s been a mere 15 weeks at the helm of “Now Showing,” it’s time for me to call it quits as The Lumberjack’s movie critic. Graduation is approaching, and it’s my time to say goodbye not only to movie reviews, but to the paper as a whole. I can honestly say it was a good run, but one that unfortunately came too fast.
Speaking of fast (see what I did there?), Justin Lin’s Fast Five was the perfect film to write about for my last review. Combining all the elements of a summer blockbuster with surprising depth for a racing franchise, I’d argue Fast Five is the best of a series that started nearly 10 years ago.
Fast Five stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as Dom Toretto and Brian O’Conner — two men on the run after Dom’s jailbreak at the end of Fast & Furious. Dom and Brian, along with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), flee to Brazil, but following a train heist gone wrong, the three plot revenge on local crime lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).
Reyes, a corrupt businessman who essentially runs Rio de Janeiro, has 10 safe houses around the city, which hold his finances. Dom plans to milk Reyes dry of his finances and puts together a team of past associates, including Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson reprising his role from 2 Fast 2 Furious), Han Lue (Sung Kang from Tokyo Drift) and Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot from Fast & Furious).
Unfortunately for Dom and crew, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is hot on their trail. Is there enough time to pull off one last job, or will Dom and crew finally meet their end after living on the edge for over a decade now?
Despite being a series that started hot with high-octane races, The Fast and the Furious franchise has eased up a bit on the driving in its previous two installments. Fast Five has approximately one race in it, but that doesn’t stop the action; on the contrary, Fast Five has some of the best action sequences I’ve seen this year, and the film does a nice job expanding beyond its original demographic. A fight scene between Diesel and Johnson is just one of many scenes that succeed in getting the action rolling.
Lin also deserves credit for crafting a visually appealing film set in beautiful Rio. Like he did with Fast & Furious, Lin brings a real urban, gritty feel to the film that does a good job complementing the rough world of crime and street racing. Fast Five’s driving sequences are once again top-notch (despite little actual racing, there is quite a bit of driving; think of Fast Five as more of a heist film than your traditional racing flick).
Surprisingly, one of the film’s greatest strengths is its plot. Fast Five does a great job connecting with previous films in the franchise, which is a nice treat for fans who took the time to watch the originals. Yes, some of the plot (and action sequences for that matter) borders on the absurd, but give credit to the actors who manage to pull the coolness out of each corny moment.
Speaking of acting, Fast Five sports some of the series’s best performances to date. Diesel is still the badass we know from the original The Fast and the Furious, but he adds a surprising level of depth following the (spoiler alert) death of his girlfriend in the previous film. Walker is also solid, drawing from his turn from cop to criminal with nice subtlety. The only real new addition to the franchise, Johnson, does an outstanding job complementing Diesel’s character as a cop with attitude. The rest of the cast does a good job stepping back into their roles for nostalgia’s sake, but Fast Five’s success comes from its leads and their ability to add depth to their characters five installments into the franchise.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with Fast Five, considering I thought it would be a summer blockbuster full of top-notch action, only to lack in substance. Instead, by simply drawing upon the core staple of its predecessors, Fast Five succeeds in ushering in the summer with a nice blend of action, humor and heart.