‘Fast Five:’ Petal to the Metal Fun

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out this calculus equation. Fast cars + hot babes + studly guys = box office success. That’s why we’re currently on the fifth installment of the high-octaine, high-testosterone “Fast and Furious” series. Rest assured, however, like the protagonists of “Fast Five,” the creators of the new movie, in theaters now, haven’t allowed themselves to get flabby. The latest flick is just as fun as its predecessors and may be the best yet.

Monotone-voiced Dom (Vin Diesel), a he-man with arms as thick as your legs who hasn’t seen his neck since the 80s, rides in a prison bus in the opening sequence of the film. He’s going away for a series of car thefts and other crimes which, morally, were entirely justified even if the legal establishment doesn’t see it that way. His wispy and beautiful sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her boyfriend O’Conner (Paul Walker) can’t let that happen. So naturally, they race down the bus with supercars, do a few doughnuts around it for good measure, and flip it by causing it to crash into a Dodge Charger.

It’s a bit of a bummer for the driver and the other prisoners, not to mention a suspension of the laws of physics, but who cares? If you’re going to get all technical about things like that, this is not the movie for you. Laws are meant to be broken, after all.

Dom, Mia, and O’Conner, not even gently bruised by the encounter, high tail to Rio de Janeiro, leaving the prison system to pick up the pieces.

In Rio, Mia reveals she’s pregnant and it’s time to settle down, preferably somewhere with no extradition treaty with the U.S. “Settling down” apparently leads pretty quickly to a heist in which they steal three very fast, very cool cars from a speeding train. The cars belong to a mob king who deals exclusively in cash, which leads to the assembling of a team for one last, huge heist.

The effects are done, as much as possible, without the benefit of CGI. While the movie may cut corners on dialog or acting ability, no effort is spared on the stunts. Thus, when O’Conner is dangling from a vehicle that’s impaled head first into the side of a train which insists on continuing to puff down the track, the stunt is mind-blowingly cool.

Even that pales in comparison to the finale, in which two Chargers and a bank vault, with the assistance of a few metal cables, demolish most of downtown Rio, about a hundred police vehicles (they were all corrupt, so they had it coming), and the empire of the mob boss of Rio in one fell swoop.

If you’re like me, you’re surprised that the artist formerly known as “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson, has not been a cast member of these films until now. He fits in so perfectly as a determined, muscle-bound D.E.A. agent that I could swear I remember him in the other films. The movie builds towards a show down, WWE-style, between Diesel and Johnson. Like the stunts, it does not disappoint.

Some old favorites do return, however, among them Ludacris, Sun Kang, Tyrese Gibson, and other favorites who coalesce into a bantering, funny team. Banter is great, but real talking is dangerous. The few times the film slows down to let its characters talk, they mire down in a bog of bad dialog and bad acting.

Ruminate on fatherhood later, fellas! How about another spin in the Porsche GT3?

The lack of nuance, acting, and script is just fine because the film never pretends that it’s trying to be more than it is, which is a fun, fast-paced ride. The down times exist merely to get you to the next chase, fight, or footrace across the rooftops of Rio.

Rated PG-13, the film features a few shots of scantily clad girls, a few rare swear words, a few innuendoes, and a lot of violence, the result of which is never seen. There is no overt sexual content. The real eye-candy is, of course, the cars that weave through every part of the story. I would take my teen son to see it.

Fast Five is the opening salvo of the summer movie season. If this flick is any indication, it will be a hot, fun summer.


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