With the fifth installment Fast Five the franchise has taken a, uh…U turn and morphed from a series dedicated to ‘car-culture’ into an Ocean’s Eleven ensemble heist picture. Cleverly using characters and mythology built up through the previous four outings. This latest model is the most slick and polished of the series. It’s also the longest clocking in at two hours and ten minutes when a sturdy 100 minute running time would have sufficed. The attractive cast and high level of technical achievement on screen make for an entertaining thrill ride that has heavy doses of humor and macho posturing thrown in at equal measures.
Both Diesel and Johnson have shown they have serious acting chops, see Find me Guilty or Gridiron Gang for proof. However both men are in action hero mode here and it’s appropriate. Arguably two of today’s last generation of musclebound throw backs to the heyday of 80’s action icons. Seeing them duel each other onscreen is a contest to see who has more charisma and it’s a tough call. Each man commands the screen effectively, if Diesel comes off better it may be just that ‘Dominic Toretto’ is his signature role and The Rock is playing the visitor role. Kudos to Universal for paring the two it’s an action lovers dream and a practice that is becoming more common (due to the box-office success of The Expendables).
Story-wise the picture plays like a semi-sequel to The Italian Job. Hiding out in Brazil Toretto and his gang including returning stars Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and Ludicris among others are once again on the run from law enforcement agents. Only this time a special task force, headed by Johnson has been assigned to bring in the gang of criminals fond of doing outrageous thing in cars and damaging hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property.
Director Justin Lin has now been the guiding force behind the camera on the last three installments. He arrived on the scene with the indie darling A Better Tomorrow and has since become one of the finest action directors working today. Lin shoots and stages his sequences with such clarity that audiences are never confused where characters are in the midst of the mayhem. The final bank vault heist is the centerpiece of the film. It is a magnificently choreographed twenty-five minutes set-piece that rivals anything your likely to see on the big-screen this year.
Director: Justin Lin
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson