Fast Five (2011)

Next week brings us the Tenth film in the “Fast and Furious” saga, a series that I never could have imagined when it opened twenty years ago, that would still be going strong. This premise has been used to give us race centered movies, gangster films, spy films and heist films. Scratch Vin Diesel and under the surface you may find another genre struggling to get out. There is always the “Family” drama going on, but this is never going to be “Ordinary People” or “Terms of Endearment”. 

In getting ready to see the newest film, I thought it would be fun to go back and finally see all of the other movies. After the first film, I did not return to the series until the sixth movie. Six, Seven, Eight and Nine all have posts on this site already. We burned through the first four at home on video so they did not really demand a commentary from me since the majority of the posts here are based on a theatrical experience [Special Projects Excepted] .  I was looking up times for next week when I noticed the local Cinemark, was playing all of the films in succeeding nights. This timed out well for me so the next three days will have “Fast Five”,  “Fast and Furious 6” and “Furious 7” filling this spot. [The 8th and 9th films conflict with some other activities].

This is the entry where Brian has finally shed any connection to law enforcement, and having engineered Dom’s escape from prison, finds him and Mia on the lam in South America. So the action for most of this film is centered in Rio de Janeiro. There is substantially less street racing than in the previous films as the movies transition to more heist related story lines. In this case, a car theft from a moving train starts the action, but it is the briefest part of the heist chronology, serving only to introduce us to more complicated thefts down the script. 

The other element that makes this film noteworthy is that this is the movie where Dwayne Johnson becomes part of the universe. The former “Rock” is set to be a fixture for five more of these films but this is the one where it started. Johnson’s character Luke Hobbs is a U.S. Agent sent to catch the team, not realizing that they are in the midst of a heist to bring down a bigger fish that the DOJ and State Department would love to bag. In this series, enemies become allies, the dead return to the world of the living, and there is always a double cross or plot twist down the road. Let’s just say that when Dawyne Johnson bursts into the movie, the whole film comes to life with a voltage high charge of charisma. 

Eventually there will be a mano a mano showdown, and the two behemoth actors of Johnson and Diesel, will pound on one another for several minutes, but don’t expect them to stay permanently at odds for the whole film. Brian’s character has already abandoned the LAPD and the DEA and FBI, so it is problematic to have Johnson fully commit to a life of crime as well. The truce that gets made will also set up Johnson’s return in the following films. The other agents that Hobbs supervises are basically red shirts that do not go on to have bigger roles in the next caper. 

The car stunts are thrilling but they do get progressively more outlandish with each film after this one. While some of the chases and heist moments are over the top, it does not reach the level of incredulous disbelief until the final sequence when Brian and Dom essentially take a giant safe and turn it into a wrecking ball for the streets of Rio. We are lucky they could not scale  Corcovado , otherwise Christ the Redeemer might have been brought down. 

The term “popcorn movie” perfectly describes these films, which don’t have serious content, weighty themes or intellectual depth. They do have great entertainment value and the technical crews and logistics of making a film like this are nothing to sneeze at, unlike the plots. 

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