Fast Five (2011)
Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by Justin Lin
Dominic Toretto is on his way to prison when Brian O’Conner and Mia show up to bust him out. Months later, Brian and Mia show up in Rio de Janeiro to meet up with Vince, from The Fast & The Furious. Dom is on his way, and Vince has a job involving hijacking a train for cars belonging to local crime kingpin Reyes. Turns out one of these cars actually holds vital information to Reyes’ drug empire and Dom uses this as an opportunity to get rich. The DEA was transporting the cars on the train and want their evidence back. They dispatch Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team to recover the car and take down Toretto and crew. To pull off the heist of Reyes’ fortune, Dom is going to need help and calls in Gisele, Han, Tej, Roman Pearce, Leo, and Santos. All of these people come together to make an insanely crazy action movie.
Fast Five was hyped to me by some friends and acquaintances as being a big leap in quality from the previous films. So I did go into this movie with some heightened expectations that it would at least be fun. And there are a lot of fun moments throughout. The highlight of the film has to be Dwayne Johnson’s choice to play Hobbs as so intense and dedicated that he becomes hilarious. The fight between Hobbs and Dom is so over the top, and they should both be in the ICU after the hell they reign down on each other. I believe they threw each other through many cinder block walls and slammed each other’s head into car hoods, metal lockers, and anything they could get their hands on. My one complaint about that scene is that I wanted they busted up and bloodied by the end, but they barely had scratches on them.
There are a lot of problems I have investing in the plot of the film. The first is the super weak villain, a problem the franchise has with nearly every bad guy. They are always generic evil men who are evil simply because…they are evil. Some friends have compared these films to the Marvel films when talking about them, so it made me think of Spider-Man: Homecoming. That movie has an interesting villain, he is multi-dimensional and sympathetic. In F&F I have a hard time being on the side of the “good guy” because all the crimes they are accused of committing they have actually committed. If it was a case of being set up and they are innocent, they could be a lot more sympathetic. Instead, I believe Dom deserved to go to federal prison for everything he had done. I don’t really get why I should root for him over Reyes when they are both criminals. We have Dom giving his whole family shtick, and I get that is supposed to make him the “good guy, ” but you could have easily featured a scene with Reyes at home, a caring father who fights so viciously to provide for his children. Such a binary film set up is frankly not interesting.
I also took issues with their dire need to steal the drug money, acting as though they needed to pull off the heist to sustain themselves. Taj literally overnights an exact copy of the safe in the police evidence locker. Dom and Brian fly everyone out to Rio. They obviously have money and resources. Just don’t spend it on this heist and there would be enough to comfortably take care of the baby. Reyes didn’t do anything personally to Dom, so he has no reason to pursue this job as deeply as he does. We have the moment where Dom lists off the specialists they will need to pull off the job. Between him and Brian, they all seem to know who fits each space. But, do any of these people really do those things they were brought in for. Roman is brought in because he is a fast talker who gets things done and the one time they have him do this he is terrible at it. I believe Dom says Gisele is a weapons expert? Does she fire a gun once in this movie? I like the “getting the crew” together trope but the logic to bring these people in makes little to no sense.
In the end, because characters still feel flat and one-dimensional it was tough for me to get into the action sequences. Personalities are painted in such broad strokes that no one is all that interesting to watch. There is an air of everyone is cool, but we don’t ever really see much of what makes them cool. Roman is probably the most interesting character because his arrogance is an interesting flaw. Can you name what makes Brian interesting? Or Mia? They are such bland non-characters, just dialogue, and plot delivery devices.
The film looks good, and Justin Lin can direct in a way that is competent. But I really want this movie series to just go nuts and go off the rails. If it isn’t going to care about developing its characters then make the plots so over the top, the villains so literally insane, that the film is ludicrously fun. There are moments where Fast Five approaches that, particularly with Hobbs, but it seems too scared to jump off into the deep end.
My predictions for the next film:
I caught the end credits scene with Hobbs and Fuentes revealing that Letty is still alive. So I guess we will see her come back in Fast & Furious 6. I also hope we finally get Jason Statham or some crazy villain that can inject some life into this series. I also assume Hobbs is continuing to pursue Dom.