I cannot make a case that Justin Lin’s latest Fast & Furious entry, Fast Five, is exactly a good movie—not in the least because there’s absolutely no reason for its 130-minute running time. And that’s exacerbated by the fact that it has a case of Return of the King-itis in not knowing when to quit. It has worn out its welcome long before it finally decides to really stop. But I also can’t deny that it’s a generally entertaining wild ride that’s fun for most of its length.
The story picks up where Fast & Furious (2009) left off, with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) breaking Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of a prisoner-transit bus by causing it to crash and roll over several times. Since they’re the good guys, of course, no one is killed in this preposterous jailbreak. The movie’s like that. You either go with it or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re probably going to be unhappy. Since the law frowns on this sort of thing, everyone heads south of the border, with Brian and Mia ending up in Rio to wait for Dom. But money’s tight, so they agree to take part in a patently absurd heist involving—wait for it—stealing cars off a moving train. I don’t believe the sequence for a second, but it’s undeniably a splendidly executed blend of action, stuntwork, CGI and plot.
Plot? Did I say plot? Well, yes, because the ridiculous train set-piece is what drives the rest of the movie, since there’s more here than meets the eye. It’s not the cars that are really wanted, it’s something in one of the cars—something involving the DEA and a Brazilian drug lord named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, Desperado). This cannot be good. But it’s worse than that, because our heroes are going to get fingered for killing some DEA agents, which means that ultra-hard-ass Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson in the sweatiest performance I’ve ever seen) is sent to Brazil with a small army to take them down. So, on the one hand, they’ve got the crime czar of Brazil after them, and on the other, a ruthless DEA agent is out to kill them.
There’s really no point in trying to map out the plot in any great detail, because it’s never going to make sense. The whole concept of what’s hidden in the car makes no sense. The fact that it’s hidden in a car that Reyes has to arrange to have stolen makes no sense. The point, of course, is that this advances the story so that it can turn into a less clever hybrid of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and The Italian Job (2003). In other words, the movie turns into a heist involving an assembled team of quirky specialists, topped off by a really elaborate and wildly over-the-top getaway with a twist.
The point is this isn’t about reality, believability, logic or anything else. It’s about guys with necks that are bigger than their heads driving fast cars and engaging in various bouts of combat—armed and unarmed. It’s about seeing Vin Diesel square off against Dwayne Johnson, with the latter being so tough that he spits out a mouthful of glass after he crashes through a window. (Perhaps he bit his way through the glass.) But here’s the point—it’s done with some style and some elan, with action scenes that actually fit together, and with a degree of obvious respect and fondness for its characters. That last is infectious. Any movie that can make me care about Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and “The Rock” has done something right—even if it’s pretty darn dumb at the same time. Maybe being pretty darn dumb is part of its charm. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.