Showcasing Director Justin Lin’s signature accelerated precision, Vin Diesel’s Dom races beside the speeding train as Paul Walker’s Brian leaps into Dom’s sports car. Their car immediately careens over a steep chasm into the river below. Diesel and Walker leap in midair out of the car, and plunge into the water. “Fast Five” is just great fun. Writer Chris Morgan’s story is better than the last “Fast and Furious”, which isn’t saying much. Then again we don’t see “Fast Five” for the narrative nuances. Non-stop action reigns supreme. Lin has a crisp vibrant visual style, and acumen for insane action. Lin has two cars racing through the streets of Rio dragging a bank vault unleashing mass destruction. Granted this is over the top, and completely original. “Fast Five” has stunning Rio de Janeiro locals, gorgeous women, fast cars, and Vin Diesel squaring off against “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson. Lin has methodically checked off all the boxes.
The theme of family distinguishes “Fast Five” from completely superfluous fare. In a quiet moment Dom reminisces about his father. He remembers him working all day, and staying up late at night helping his sister Mia with her homework. He recalls the generous neighborhood barbecues he had. Conversely, Brian has regrets about his father, “He just wasn’t around.” Perhaps he has chance to alter his fate. Amidst the flash, “Fast Five” earnestly adheres to family and loyalty.
The band is back together in “Fast Five”, for one last heist. If I am not mistaken one of the band, Han played by Sung Kang died in a previous Lin directed sequel. Stranger things have happened. The accelerated opening sequence recaps the rescue of Dom Toretto, where the last movie ended. Federal agent Brian O’Connor and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) daringly execute the operation to free Dom from serving an undeserved life sentence. In context what else could that be? Dom risked his life to help Brian solve a heinous crime and bring killer to justice. Lin throttles the adrenaline and velocity in this deadly game of chicken with a prison bus. This is only an omen of things to come.
As “Fast Five” resumes, Mia (Brewster) and Brian (Walker) have been on the run in Rio. They are seeking to rendezvous with Dom (Diesel). Dom has one last heist in mind: robbing the bank vault in the Rio Police Station with $100 million of crime lord Reyes (slick and villainous Joaquim de Alemeida). Apparently, Reyes’ rule and influence knows no bounds in Rio. So Dom assembles his old team. Dwayne Johnson, massive hard muscle, shaved head and goatee, plays singular and intense Federal Agent Hobbs, who is out to bring Dom to justice. He instructs Rio official to “Stay the f*** out of my way.” Hobbs and his team always get their man. As Hobbs, Johnson is imposing and handles guns and his fists with explosive results. Of course we are waiting for Vin to take on The Rock in the final epic battle. Chris Morgan ingeniously stacks the story. Dom is the thief with a code. Hobbs is the cop with honor. Reyes is the true villain. Much like gravity, we can kind of figure how things will fall.
Predictability is some of the charm of “Fast Five”. Vin Diesel plays to his minimalist strength as Dom. Emotive is not his deal, but that is not required here. He commands the screen, and often surprises in his underplay. Paul Walker has become a pretty good actor. Not much is demanded of him here. He deftly uses his charm and smarts. The Rock is great as Hobbs. He imposes as a formidable rival. Here Johnson’s straight arrow persona leverages the story’s ultimate conflict. “Fast Five” is not going to win any awards. It is just great fun. I look forward to the next sequel.