May 02 2011

Unreal Movie Review: Fast Five

Published by at 12:00 pm under Movies,Reviews

4 out of 5 stars

You know what critics? You can go to hell.

That’s right, I’m talking to the 80% of you currently giving Fast Five rave reviews, a sudden and stark contrast to the 50-25% ratings previously handed to each film the franchise.

For years now, I’ve been a Fast and the Furious apologist. I landed my first reporting job on the film staff of the Michigan Daily by writing a 4  star review of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. They questioned my taste, but said my point was well made. Taking it purely for what it was, that movie was an absolute blast.

The same is true for the other installments in the series. Rank them in whatever order you like, but the fundamental premise has remained the same. Ridiculous, over the top automobile action mixed with an organized crime plotline. The formula hasn’t changed for Fast Five, so why now are critics just coming around?

The analysis is all the same. Yes, it’s stupid, but the action is great, and if you don’t take it seriously, it’s a lot of fun. Where these people have been for the entire franchise, I do not know, but I’m glad that the mainstream is finally viewing these movies the way I always have.

There are a lot more assault weapons and less underbody lights and hydraulics than there used to be.

So what of it? Is Fast Five really God’s gift to summer blockbusters as all these converts would have you believe? In a way, yes. Fast Five has captured what’s been missing from so many movies in this day and age. Its action is REAL. No CGI, just flesh and blood and metal, and it creates a visceral action film the likes of which we rarely find today in a world of superheroes and toy robots who seem to have a monopoly on the blockbuster genre.

Director Justin Lin took over the franchise at Tokyo Drift, and has ramped up the insanity of his car stunts in each subsequent feature. Fast Five features not only the best of these scenes in the franchise, but I would argue in cinema history. In terms of pure madness, Steve McQueen has nothing on Vin Diesel here.

The plot is largely inconsequential as it always is. The gang is on the run for being criminals as usual, and they’ve landed in Rio looking for work. When their old friend Vince (Matt Schulze) offers them a job that promises some quick cash, Brian (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Dom (Vin Diesel) jump at the opportunity. But as it happens it’s a set-up by a local crime boss, and in a car he wants them to steal is a chip containing the location of all his safehouses full of dirty cash. A few bullets and explosions later, and the team is in dire straits as they have an entire criminal empire on their tail.

But they’re not the only ones in pursuit. The FBI has commissioned manhunter extraordinare Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to track down the fugitives, and his brute force approach is nothing to be reckoned with. The team has to dodge him while devising a plan to steal all the safehouse money and get away clean.

Vin Diesel vs. The Rock is a match up more epic than any car chase.

Fast Five assembles the Avengers of its series, and brings members back from each installment. Vince from the original, Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar) from 2 Fast, Han (Sung Kang) from Tokyo Drift and Gisele (Gal Gadot) from the last chapter. This supporting cast creates most of the film’s laughs, and for fans of the series, it’s rather cool to see all these characters from past movies in one place.

Fast Five has more in common with Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job than it does its own past installments, and that’s not always a good thing. There’s an incredibly long stretch in the middle of the film where there’s not an actual action sequence for close to an hour. There were some poor editing decisions made here, as in one scene Brian and Dom track down a local race club so they can win some pink slips for some heist cars. They challenge the local champion, and the audience gears up for a race. Instead, the scene cuts to them rolling into the hideout with the man’s car. Even if we know they obviously would have won that race, it was the perfect moment to show it, and you could feel the disappointment in the audience when they skipped what would have been a classic Fast and Furious drag race sequence.

But despite its rather slow hour, the film is bookended by such absurd and adrenaline filled action scenes, you’ll forget all about the lulls. The opening train sequence is crazy enough, but the concluding car stunt where two Dodge Chargers pull a room-sized metal safe through downtown Rio while being chased by the entire police force is one of the most insane to ever take place in a movie.

I love it when a plan comes together.

It’s one of the most physically implausible action sequences you’ll ever witness, and one that could have an entire Mythbusters episode devoted to it, but as the massive safe tumbles through buildings and police cruisers alike, you won’t be bothered by such a silly concept as physics. The concluding moments where the chase moves to a narrow bridge is so expertly crafted, you’ll want to stand up and cheer when it’s over. In my theater, a few people did.

The movie is just satisfying. The Fast and the Furious series has mastered mindless entertainment. They’ve taken stupid action and made it an art form, and the bank vault scene is just the crown on a decade of similarly exhilarating cars stunts. The characters are likable, the cast is hot, the cars are fast, the action is mind-blowing and there’s nothing more you should need to ask out of a summer blockbuster. I’m just glad everyone else finally agrees with me.

4 out of 5 stars

<3

 





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24 responses so far

  • joe

    I have seen them all, Tokyo Drift is the only good one in my opinion.

    The other ones really suck dude.

  • Jack

    Amen, Paul.

  • Bashman

    This is the best one out of the lot.

  • Bashman

    Oh btw anyone know what car that is in the first pic please :)
    thanks

  • Limitus

    “Yes, it’s stupid, but the action is great, and if you don’t take it seriously, it’s a lot of fun.” – Can’t remember you saying that for Sucker Punch :p

    but i guess i’ll give it a try^^

  • Mike

    I second what Limitus just said. You gave Sucker Punch a half of a star review but just gave this movie a 4 out of 5 for the same reasons you hated Sucker Punch.

    “The plot is largely inconsequential as it always is.” I guess it’s OK to have no plot for this movie, but not for Sucker Punch.

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @Litmus and Mike

    There’s a difference between a plot that’s an afterthought to the action and a plot that’s so bad and incoherent it brings the rest of the movie down, which is what happened in Sucker Punch.

    And just because an action sequence is over the top, that alone does not make it good. That distinction is obvious in FF’s bank vault scene as compared to any action sequence in Sucker Punch. Lots of crazy shit happening does not necessarily equal a good action scene, and it helps if it is actually connected to the rest of the film in some way.

    There’s a way to do stupid action well, and a way to do it terribly. Fast Five and Sucker Punch are two prime examples of each category.

  • Mikey

    Mike, have you seen Sucker Punch? It was one of the worst movies ever, and I like stupid mindless movies

  • Mike

    I loved Sucker Punch Mikey. I thought it was fantastic and not worthy of a half star review. I don’t understand how people say it didn’t have a plot. Girl goes into an insane asylum, tries to escape it, deals with reality in her own way to play out what really goes on. You are right Paul. Over the top action sequences alone don’t make a movie good. But between the two reviews it’s splitting hairs. You said it in your own words you liked the other Fast and Furious movies so you’re opinion was biased going in. I get you didn’t like Sucker Punch. I respect your opinion and obviously you have your right to hate it as much as possible, but there wasn’t much difference between both reviews yet you liked one movie and not the other.

  • Nash

    “but I’m glad that the mainstream is finally viewing these movies the way I always have.”

    The mainstream has always seen The Fast and the Furious series that way (epic mind-numbing action), which is why they’ve made so much money. The mainstream has always accepted the franchise for what it is. It’s the stuck-up, indie-loving critics that have always saw it otherwise.

  • Matt Chi

    @ Bashman
    Pretty sure it’s a corvette with a crazy aftermarket hood and windshield. If I had to guess the year, I’d say early 60’s.

  • Jake Stone

    “It’s” is a contraction for “It Is”. “Its” is the possessive form of the word. No apostrophe.

  • vincent

    yeah! you should start being consistent in your critiques and viewing the movies for what they’re worth and what they offer to the table. i agree with the guys here that it’s rather unfair you bashed sucker punch and hailed this movie.

  • http://suckstoyourassmar.tumblr.com Castle

    Fun fact: The director of Fast Five also directed last years brilliant paintball episode of Community, “Modern Warfare”

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @vincent

    For the last time, there is a difference between stupid fun, and just plain stupid.

  • agon23

    damn i’m so happy to find some like minded people. I also like tokyo drift the most. when the first fast and furious came out i was too young to have a driver’s license by the time the other’s came out I had a beater of a car. Tokyo drift was in my opinion the only that represented what a “kid” can afford and do. Especially since we all can’t afford to import skylines and restore classic cars. Although i never “fixed” up my car I saved up enough money for my 370. :D

  • John

    You gave The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift 4 stars? I don’t really care what points you made or how well you made them but to give that horrid movie a 4 stars is just wrong on every level. Yes, there is a difference between stupid fun and just stupid. But I don’t think you are the authority on that. It’s not that you like stupid fun. It’s that you only like stupid fun that appeals to you. In my opinion, both Tokyo Drift and Sucker Punch are pointless stupid movies.

  • moddyd

    The picture of Vin Diesel giving the “what’s up” gesture to The Rock is enough to make me never want to see this “film”.

  • moddyd

    Btw Paul I read your site almost every day and get enjoyment out of it. Keep up the good work. Sans pokemon shit.

    @ Jake Stone quit being a douche.

  • http://heylady-blog.blogspot.com/ Hey Lady!

    I agree completely with your review. I loved this movie, but wished there could have been more actual racing (car chase and car race are not the same), these franchise has some of the best car racing scenes, it’s a shame they couldn’t have put some of them into this film. Also, I like that they place these movies before Tokyo Drift, “Han Lue” is one of the better side characters and I’m glad they make it so they can realistically include him.

    I agree about Sucker Punch too, huge CGI, nonsensical action scenes are not the same as realistic over-the-top action.
    As you said “…there is a difference between stupid fun, and just plain stupid.”. Sucker Punch was a complete disappointment.

  • http://www.maniadown.com ManiaDown

    For me the first one is the best :)

  • Joao

    This one was the best so far, the best part was the race between Han,Rome,Dom and Brian using police cars.

  • prats

    i jus wanna kill the director coz of the racing scene of blue porche he cut ………………..well how wud u discourage street racing by removing blue porche racing scene and put one right next with all 4 police stolen muscles in middle of traffic racing in it for street(street racing)……………………..now he owes an apology to us by putting in more racing scenes in next movie including a recap to show the on he cut in this one in fulllllllll……….i can even give away one for no reason racing racing and got damn lot hell more racing kind of movie its perfectly fine wid me i m obsesd wid racing so i will watch a sequel to it having no reason rracing kind of story movie

  • prats

    at a level of director and a grown uup individual with success in that field u dont talk about discouraging street racing by making a movie on it (STREEET RAAACING) ima make justin lin into a bustin lin if he dont put up more racing in the next and will break my loyalty of first day first show for fast and furious series………….oh ya u wanna put story well go ahead put as much as u want an u knw wat i will sit even if ur story goes for a strait 6 hours no racing but thn after all the story i want atleast 4 hours of racing to cover it up…………………how about dat now……………u get to do ur stufff n i get to see mine do we have a deal???

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