After busting Dominic Toretto (Diesel) out of police custody, his sister Mia (Brewster) and former cop buddy Brian (Walker) head for South America. Planning one last job so they can stop running from the law and disappear, the trio assemble a team of old friends while evading elite federal agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) who’s hunting them down…
What words would you use to describe the FF franchise thus far? Fast? Too right. Furious? Goes without saying. Subtle? Not so much. Loud? Sorry, didn’t hear you there for all the engine-revving. Shrewd? Well, it’s not an obvious one, granted, but in moving away from a pure car culture towards more crime-orientated action, the term arguably applies. Playing out like a heist movie, the fifth instalment is like Ocean’s Eleven with faster getaways, bigger triceps and tighter t-shirts.
Those boy-racers sweating in panic right now can calm down, as there’s still plenty of turbo-charged, wheel-spinning va-va-voom. There’s cars. There’s chases. And of course, there’s car chases. It’s just that Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious 5 (titled Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist in the UK and simply Fast Five in the US) changes lanes slightly, making the long overdue shift from hovering around the street-racing circuit and into more mainstream action fare. About time too.
Despite the gear-change, it’s very much a consistent continuation of last time’s Fast & Furious (which was so fast and furious it didn’t even have time to include the word ‘the’). Like that fourth instalment (also helmed by Lin), we’ve barely sat down before tyres are screeching and trucks are rolling. Again, the automobile set-pieces are big, bold and over-the-top. But yet, aside from overlong and overblown climactic sequence (where Brian and Dom tow a ten-tonne safe through the streets) you don’t feel like you’re sitting through them. Many will hail the train hi-jacking as the film’s stand-out, but Lin shows a real flair for the non-car stuff. Particularly a pulse-pounding pursuit over the packed-housing rooftops of Rio, and any of the muscular (key word) bruisings involving The Rock.
Yes, The Rock. A simply perfect fit for the FF universe, the Hulking manhunter defines this instalment as the immovable object to Vin Diesel’s unstoppable force. Literally stomping in with his shaved bonce, cage-fighting goatee and immense, tank-like frame, we’re chomping at the bit for Dobbs’ inevitable one-on-one with Diesel’s Toretto. Pitting these two against each other is a shrewd move (there’s that word again), especially seeing as both were once named as Arnold’s successor to the action crown. Each oozes physical presence like the Oak did. Each can deliver the goods. The former has a key turning point which will either have you cheering or sighing, but their smackdown is what The Expendables should’ve been.
Still, for all the obvious testosterone, Lin stays true to the characters. As his fourth demonstrated, the American-Taiwanese director knows that Rob Cohen’s original (and best) took place in the street-racing world – but was ultimately about family and friendship. Unlike, say John Singleton’s awful, Diesel-less sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious and the competent but unrelated and unessential The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (which, confusingly, Lin also directed). You don’t necessarily have to seen all of these, but there’s a lot of references to past events which fans will love.
Most obviously, there’s the returning faces. In all honesty, having so many robs key players of screen time (Jordana Brewster’s Mia doesn’t get much to do apart from being pregnant), but in return they bring more humour than you’d expect. There’s something indefinably cool about Sung Kang’s Tokyo street-racer Han, whilst Tyrese Gibson’s motor-mouth and Ludacris’ mechanic get all the best lines. Crucially, the plot misses a beat by barely touching on O’Connor’s move to the other side – but then they’ve got to save something for the now-inevitable sixth movie. Wonder what this one will be called?
Essentially a continuation of last time, but bolstered by The Rock and a move towards being a heist movie. Ocean’s Eleven meets The Expendables. In a good way.