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Thursday, May 26, 2022
'Fast Five' features the fast and the ridiculous

Fast Five: While ""Fast Five"" may strain the boundaries of credibility, star Vin Diesel is able to contribute to an overall fun atmosphere that helps make the movie a fun, if somewhat mindnumbing experience.

'Fast Five' features the fast and the ridiculous

A while back, Hollywood remade the classic Michael Caine heist flick ""The Italian Job"" with Mark Wahlberg. It was a fun if slight crime flick that most people remember for its Mini Cooper chase scene, and soon after its release the studio planned to make a sequel set in Rio de Janeiro and entitled ""The Brazilian Job,"" but one way or another it all fell apart - maybe Marky Mark was too busy working on ""The Happening."" Enter director Justin Lin and the ""Fast and Furious"" franchise, which for all intents and purposes have crafted ""The Brazilian Job"" as the new ""Fast Five,"" preserving all the fun and slightness of ""The Italian Job,"" but with a heavily heightened dose of stupidity and testosterone.

""Fast Five"" represents a bit of a shift for series, as where the first several films focused mainly on street racing culture, the curtly titled ""Fast Five"" is a full-on straightforward heist flick. Following the events of the fourth film, ex-federal agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his better half Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) free Mia's brother Dominic (Vin Diesel) from prison and all flee to South America. After a car theft on a train goes awry, the Toretto gang gets into a feud with a local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida), leading Dominic and Brian to spearhead a daring revenge heist. In doing so they recruit a who's-who of supporting players from the previous films, including Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, while catching the eye of walking bicep muscle Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne ""The Rock"" Johnson), looking to arrest the Torretto gang and bring them back to the states.

It's a lot of plot for a movie whose thesis is effectively ""Cars are fast, girls are pretty."" And the majority of the story is meaningless, along with subplots about Mia's pregnancy, Gibson and Ludacris constantly giving each other shit and some romantic interest between the two most non-essential members of the gang.

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But that's because the plot is secondary to Lin's fetish for cars, hot women and most importantly, muscular, masculine men. Both Diesel and Johnson are impenetrable human shells of testosterone here. In at least three scenes, Diesel takes some sort of hit that even in a movie as cartoonish as this should kill him, yet he gets up and walks away every time. And to be fair, this invincible man routine does result in some entertaining sequences, including the aforementioned train heist and a climactic vehicular showdown involving a bridge and a flying bank vault.

However, the movie is concerned with little else. Walker and Brewster are a match made in purgatory as two halves of the world's blandest couple, and de Almeida does his best villainous mustache-twirling to little avail. Meanwhile, Gibson's role consists of him constantly yelling ""Y'all crazy"" and not much else.

The Rio setting around the gang isn't any more fully formed. Lin throws in occasional shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue for some flash, but if not for that and the flocks of girls in bikinis, ""Fast Five"" could have just as easily been shot in Cleveland. And despite the fact that the gang has the entire Rio mob as well as a team of heavily-armed federal agents looking for them, they can apparently walk around freely throughout the city at will. The film could be called an idiot savant version of ""Ocean's Eleven,"" but even that implies some level of skill. Instead, Diesel and Walker's success is really due almost exclusively to their enemies' incompetence.

""Fast Five"" is the very definition of dumb fun, which is about as smart as any movie starring the triumvirate of Diesel, Walker and Johnson has any right to be. But that at least means it's still fun, despite its mindlessness.

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