AKA Fast Five AKA Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist. Whichever name you give it, this is still a fast-paced, slow-witted franchise entry designed to do nothing much beyond pleasing those who will go into the thing already knowing that they’re going to enjoy it.
After the events of the last film we join Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Jordana Brewster in Brazil. They’re planning, big intake of breath now, one last big job to get them on the road to a freedom they can throw money at. They’re also being tracked by a specially assigned squad led by Mr Dwayne Johnson.
Justin Lin returns to the director’s chair for the third time in a row, accompanied by writer Chris Morgan who is now also three for three (I know, I know, you’re wondering at how the hell someone can claim to write this stuff . . . . . . . hey, it’s not Shakespeare but I’ve been tortured with many scripts worse than this one).
What’s strange about this fifth franchise instalment is just how it spends its first act and finale trying to be everything that the franchise is when it’s at its dubious best and yet leaves the middle to become a mixture of moments from other movies (The Italian Job remake being the first one that sprang to my mind). This leaves someone like myself, who enjoys the brainless fun but doesn’t really LOVE it, at a bit of a loss. Because I simply spent the first 15-20 minutes thinking about how Paul Walker had almost become the male Penelope Pitstop of modern action movies and was so overwhelmed by the implausibility of the big finale that I simply had to fold my arms and chuckle at just how much of the action I saw onscreen should never have been happening.
The cast all do well with characters that they’re very comfortable portraying onscreen. Walker, Brewster and Diesel are just fine in the lead roles, Matt Schulze makes a welcome return and a few other familiar faces join him. Ludacris is good fun, Sung Kang is also enjoyable, Gal Gadot is cool and sexy and Tyrese Gibson (judging by the reaction of both myself and the audience around me) pretty much steals the movie with almost every line he utters. Joaquim de Almeida plays the kind of baddie that he can play in his sleep and Elsa Pataky does okay with what she’s got to work with. But we know who we want to see. We want Vin Diesel fighting Dwayne Johnson. We want Diesel Vs. “The Rock”. So why the director chose to shoot the big fight promised in the trailer in such a jittery, unenjoyable style is beyond me.
Then we have the scenes leading up to a big car chase that . . . . . . . . . . . . . we don’t actually see. Wait a minute, hold up here, this IS still the franchise that started off as Point Break on the street racing circuit, isn’t it? Leaving out a car chase, one that is talked up beforehand, feels like a cardinal sin.
There are a few good action sequences in here, and I can grudgingly include the logistically-ridiculous-but-undeniably-entertaining finale as one of them, but there are also far too many flat moments, scenes that have either already been done in numerous other films (and better), one or two sudden changes of heart from characters that are a bit too hard to swallow and a feeling that this shiny supercar never really opens the throttle all the way. And, on a personal note, I’m already sick of 2010 being the year in which we seem to be constantly getting that camera shot swooping around the statue of Christ The Redeemer. Between the ads for Rio and this movie, it’s quickly become the equivalent of stock footage in my eyes, despite the undeniable natural beauty of it.
But back to my summation of the movie. It will easily please those who enjoyed the last couple of outings in the series. It pleased me. It just didn’t ever really reach the level of excitement I had envisioned from that tantalising trailer. But that’s why trailers are designed that way.
DIRECTOR: JUSTIN LIN
STARS: VIN DIESEL, PAUL WALKER, JORDANA BREWSTER, DWAYNE JOHNSON, TYRESE GIBSON, JOAQUIM DE ALMEIDA, LUDACRIS, SUNG KANG, GAL GADOT
RUNTIME: 130 MINS APPROX