Fast Five review, Fast Five Blu-ray review
Starring
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Joaquim de Almeida
Director
Justin Lin
Fast Five

Reviewed by Jason Zingale

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here aren’t very many movie franchises fortunate enough to make it to five films (most are horror series, and by that point, the quality has decreased significantly), but the guys behind the “Fast and Furious” movies can count themselves among the lucky few. No one could have imagined that there would still be enough gas left in the tank for a couple sequels, let alone four, when the first film raced into theaters in 2001, but director Justin Lin has played an integral part in keeping the series chugging along since taking over the helm with “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Each movie has only gotten better under his direction, and though “Fast Five” serves as a transitional chapter of sorts that moves away from being just about the cars and more about the action, it’s perhaps the best installment since the original.

The film picks up right where the last one ended, with Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) breaking Dominic (Vin Diesel) out of prison by flipping the transport bus he was being transferred on. From there, the trio head to Rio de Janeiro, where they accept a seemingly straightforward job to make some quick cash by stealing a couple high-end cars from a train. What they don’t know is that the cars were recently seized in a drug raid by the DEA, and when the job goes south and some DEA agents are killed in the process, the government sends in DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to track down the fugitives and bring them in.

But when the man behind the initial heist (corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes, played by Joaquim de Almeida) learns that Dominic and company are in possession of a computer chip containing a manifest of his illegal activities, he puts a bounty on their heads. Backed into a corner and with both sides of the law pursuing them, Dominic and Brian decide to put together a team – including Vince (Matt Schulze) from “The Fast and the Furious,” Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) from “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Dom Omar) from “Fast & Furious” – to steal $100 million from Reyes' vault and disappear for good.

Though the “Fast and Furious” films aren’t exactly known for their rich storytelling, “Fast Five” features the series’ most complex plotline to date, which is part and parcel of the aforementioned transition that Lin is ushering in with this latest installment. While cars still play a pretty important part in the story, they’re no longer the centerpiece, as the film eventually evolves into more of a straight-up heist flick in the spirit of the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies. But whereas Steven Soderbergh’s casino capers were filled with clever set-ups and comical situations, “Fast Five” still relies on the same raw muscle that powered the previous four films. Dominic’s crew may not be crafty enough to steal the money without detection, but that doesn’t stop them from just yanking the vault out of the wall, resulting in one of the coolest (and most destructive) car chases you'll ever see.

And if you thought that “Fast & Furious” was catering to the fans by bringing back the core cast from the first film, Lin ups the ante once again by incorporating just about every surviving character from the series in this go-around. The addition of Dwayne Johnson is also a nice touch, as he’s not only the first adversary you believe could actually defeat these guys, but has the charisma needed to make Chris Morgan’s hokey dialogue not sound so stupid. The performances in general have never been the series’ strong suit (partly due to the writing, but mostly because of the actors headlining the films), but the ensemble cast creates a really fun atmosphere by embracing the blatant ridiculousness of the films. And isn’t that what enjoying a big, dumb action movie is all about? “Fast Five” never tries to be more than it is, and although the film sticks to the same basic formula (fast cars, hot chicks and cool action), it also breathes new life into the franchise in a way that ensures there’s room for plenty more sequels.


Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:

Universal has always done a great job on the Blu-rays for the “Fast and the Furious” movies, and the fifth installment is no exception. There’s an audio commentary with director Justin Lin, a picture-in-picture video track with cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and production featurettes on shooting the film’s three biggest set pieces. The two-disc set also includes deleted scenes, an in-depth look at the new cars, a short featurette on reuniting all the actors from the previous four films, profiles on Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson, and a DVD copy of the movie.

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