Benjamin has been reviewing films for sixteen years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Fast Five (also known as Fast & Furious 5 or Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist) is an action heist film released in 2011 and is the fifth instalment of the increasingly popular Fast & Furious series. Directed once again by Justin Lin, the film sees Dominic Toretto sprung from prison and teaming up with Brian O'Conner and others in order to bring down a corrupt businessman and drug lord operating in Rio de Janeiro. The film stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Gal Gadot. The film was designed to turn the series away from the street-racing theme that popularised the earlier films and develop the series into a more action-based film that would appeal to new viewers. The result was worldwide takings in excess of $626 million, the highest the series had earned up to that point. It also saw renewed critical interest and praise with many citing the performance of Johnson and the film's action sequences as highlights.
What's it about?
After being jailed for his past misdemeanours, Dominic Toretto is being transported via prison bus to Lompoc Prison before he escapes thanks to the efforts of former FBI agent Brian O'Conner and Dom's sister Mia. With the authorities looking for them, the three escape to Rio de Janeiro and team up with former running buddy Vince to steal some high-end sports cars from a train. It turns out that Zizi, a guy helping them steal the cars, is only interested in a Ford GT that belongs to his drug-pushing boss Hernan Reyes. Mia makes off with the GT while Dom and Brian fail to escape from the train before it is swarmed by men loyal to Reyes.
After escaping a brutal interrogation, Brian and Dom retreat to their safehouse in Rio where they discover that the car has details of Reyes' drug-dealing operation. Determined to get revenge on Reyes, Brian and Dom recruit every one of their former colleagues to assist them in stealing $100 million of Reyes' money from his safehouses. But they have other problems besides Reyes and the corrupt police - DSS agent Luke Hobbs and his team have been recruited by the US authorities to bring Toretto and his gang in. And Hobbs isn't the kind of guy to take no for an answer...
Dominic "Dom" Toretto
Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges
Han "Seoul-Oh" Lue
Joaquim de Almeida
Officer Elena Neves
Release Date (UK)
21st April, 2011
Action, Crime, Thriller
What's to like?
After the disappointing Fast & Furious (the fourth film), I'd had all the street-racing, neon lighting, garish paint jobs and ass-bearing women that I could stomach. Thankfully, this film is a breath of largely fresh air - there is a token scene that harks back to those dreadful teenage-fantasy scenes but generally, this is a pretty straight-up action film with a pretty straight-forward narrative. The film isn't too concerned with plot twists and turns but it offers enough to keep most viewers interested.
The newest ingredient, Johnson's ass-kicking bounty hunter, is a great addition to the team. He looks and feels like a mythical hero, gunning down baddies left and right and delivering a bruising scrap with the equally cut Diesel that literally crashes through the set. The film sets new standards for the series in terms of action which cuts down boring races with CG backdrops and instead provides a roof-top chase and gun battle through the slums of Rio and a physics-defying chase through downtown that causes a huge amount of collateral damage but somehow never actually kills anybody. Fast Five was right to leave behind the racing nonsense because there is only so much you can do with that - this movie provides a fresh injection and impetus that the series desperately needed.
- The role of Hobbs was originally planned for Tommy Lee Jones. Co-producer Diesel spotted a Facebook comment suggesting how great it would be if Dwayne Johnson and he shared scenes in a film and the role was then re-written with Johnson in mind instead.
- When Hobbs brings up the profiles of Toretto and Han, Han's name is listed as Han Seoul-Oh which is an obvious reference to the Star Wars character.
- When the team line up for a drag race in their stolen police cars, one of the cars activates its lights. Car co-ordinator Dennis McCarthy stated that the models used were prototypes and the lights were a malfunction. However, it was kept in the movie because it was felt that Roman - the driver of the car in question - would have done that anyway!
What's not to like?
For whatever reason, the series has always had a blind-spot regarding its out-dated depiction of female characters who are either conquests for the guys or eye candy. Take Gal Gadot's role, a character who doesn't even have her name spoken in this film. She only seems to drive in the training scenes and has no impact on the final heist at all, besides getting felt up by Reyes in order to acquire a palm print. In this #MeToo environment we're presently living in, it feels not just repugnant but utterly old-fashioned and misogynist. Why has this not been corrected?
The series has also held a fairly loose understanding of physics ever since The Fast And The Furious (the first film) screeched onto screens back in 2001. Things get even more dumb in this fifth film as two muscle cars can not only drag a humungous vault around downtown Rio but also counter the swing of said vault going around corners at high speed and out-run numerous other vehicles that aren't hampered in such a way. Fast Five understands things like gravity, physics and sometimes even continuity the same way a small puppy does - it might be fun but boy, this movie is so stupid that it forgets its own title in full.
Should I watch it?
Saying that this is the best film in the series so far damns it with faint praise. It's considerably better than the previous three films and possibly slightly better than the first but Fast Five is a big dumb bundle of four-wheeled fun. It won't change the world but it offers much more than previous films did, ditching the garish car-culture and boy-racer image in favour of something more palatable. The action is as beefy as its leading men and fans of the series so far will get a real kick out of this.
Great For: fans of the series, boy racers, tuning companies
Not So Great For: Brazilian viewers upset that their country is depicted as a poverty-stricken drugs haven, feminists, people who take films too seriously
What else should I watch?
After Fast Five, the series would forever turn its back on street-racing and focus instead on being more conventional action films with cars as an overall theme. Going on box office totals, this appears to have been a wise decision as subsequent films have been the among the most successful films in history. Fast & Furious 6 took $788 million, Furious 7 took a staggering $1.5 billion (the seventh biggest film of all time at time of writing) while Fast & Furious 8 took a not-too-shabby $1.2 billion. Given that the highest earnings before this film was just $363 million, the turnaround is astonishing.
I'm bored of telling you how good Ocean's Eleven is, particularly as it's a smart heist film that oozes cool from its stellar cast list. But I confess I do have a soft spot for another heist remake and this one also has an emphasis on motor vehicles. Gone In Sixty Seconds might not have much in the way of substance but it has style for days, a list of highly desirable and beautiful cars and an under-rated soundtrack. It also has Vinnie Jones but he doesn't say much...
© 2018 Benjamin Cox