Escapism is back on the top of Hollywood’s mind, and when stacked up against this week’s other big release (Thor), it’s ironically a bit more realistic to see two cars dragging a bank vault down busy Rio streets by steel cables.
So make no mistake about ”Fast Five/Fast & The Furious Five” (it’s called something different on the newspaper ads than at the beginning of the movie – apparently even the franchise nomenclature has the studio confused) being a fantasy. We’re in Brazil, so every woman is 22 and gorgeous, there’s nothing to drink but cold beer and even the police cars are hot rods.
Ironically there’s less driving than in the other films, leaving director Justin Lin to bring his kinetic style to scenes of much less inherent action. The entire midsection is given over to planning the climactic heist and even though the gritty and destructive final chase sequence more than makes up for it, rapid Furious fans might get a little bored during the second act.
But Lin puts you right in the mood he wants you from the opening scene. In a bone-jarring sequence, Brian (Walker) and Mia (Brewster) spring Dominic (Diesel) after the bang-up he’s received at the end of the last film, crashing a prison bus to career over and over in circles along a US highway and somehow leaving no casualties.
The gang reconvene in the favelas of Rio where their buddy Vince comes up with one last score that will set them up. After a high powered train heist, a chip is found in one of the boosted cars when they get back to their base of operations that reveals the locations of huge caches of money belonging to a local crime lord.
The gang realises that $11m each spells freedom, but it’s going to take more than just skilled driving, so specialists in safe-cracking (Bridges), fast talking (Gibson) weapons & seduction (Gadot) and more are bought in to bring the audacious plan off and give Diesel and Walker a little less to do.
If that’s not testosterone-sozzled brawn enough for you, Dwayne Johnson plays a pumped-up federal agent sent down South to bring the gang in, and he’s subject to the most ridiculous plot turn just prior to the climax since Jeff Goldblum bought down an alien mothership with a DOS-based virus.
There are a few romantic subplots woven in and out of the action but to Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan it’s all about the bromance – more so this time than the love between man and machine. Diesel just looks increasingly bored, issuing his lazy-lipped platitudes with less fervour than ever, but Walker again proves he’s capable of much better.
The cadre of crooks provide plenty of banter-based script gags to fill in the soft spots and ”Fast Five” delivers no more or less than it promises.