Making a sequel to a film is never normally a good thing — they excite all the fans of the previous film and then ultimately disappoint them with a production that is not better (and in some cases, far worse) than the original. This same argument can generally be applied to reboots (or to purists, remakes). Some premises, thanks to money making opportunities, turn into semi-successful franchises even though each addendum becomes steadily worse — this has been the case with the Fast and Furious series. However, the fifth film, Fast Five, bucks the argument — it head and shoulders outclasses its predecessors.
Continuing where Fast & Furious left off, Fast Five picks up with Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Brian (Paul Walker) chasing down the bus and freeing Dominic (Vin Diesel) in spectacular fashion (if you recall he was sentenced to 25 years in jail and being carted away). Eluding authorities thereafter, the trio reunites in Rio de Janeiro (where every Brazilian seems to be portrayed as a gun-toting thug) to lick their wounds and plan their next move. And wouldn’t you know it, up next for the car thieves, now joined by fellow member Vince (Matt Schulze), is a heist of a Ford GT40 from a train secured by DEA agents (what good is it to run from the law if you can’t continue to break the law?). Predictably it gets messy and, in order for the crew to break free, they hatch another plan to get their hands on 100 million dollars of laundered money. It isn’t long before they all become a few of the most wanted criminals. Their mission, that rips through Brazil, sees two on their tail — federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who never lets anyone escape, and corrupt drug lord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who wants them dead.
That’s not really a witty plot. And there aren’t great performances guided by a witty script either, so rule out suspenseful conversations and memorable dialogue. Vin Diesel is a big block of wood. Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker are good looking blocks of wood. A merit goes to the Dwayne Johnson though — he was perfectly cast for his role and shows a lot more of his talky WWE side unlike his last film Faster where he was virtually on mute. But this series, with its core of street racing, has never been known for excelling in those aspects of filmmaking — it’s known for blinged out rides and edge of your seat action sequences. And what stunning action scenes there are in Fast Five. Instead of all of the focus being relayed onto the bad-ass cars and their driver’s need for speed (which there is still a fair share of), however, this installment takes more of a stab at the “men on a mission” plot element — emphasizing more on fighting than racing (there’s even an ex-wrestler versus action star fight like when Stone Cold Steve Austin fist fought Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables).
If you think of Fast Five as the cinematic equivalent of a mindless, muscular athlete then you can’t go wrong — it can’t talk a good game but can surely play a good game. The film is as absent minded as it can possibly be (as if the men behind the camera — writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin — decided a plot wasn’t a necessary evil) but it is more than made up for by the pulse pounding action. Looking at this year’s earlier films The Mechanic and The Green Hornet, it’s safe to say that this fast and furious feature has the best action sequences of the year yet, and is clearly the top actioner overall . . . so far.