I’m not sure when the Fast & The Furious series evolved from its cheesy, ricer-fest ooze to the recent Bourne-style action films that spend as much time on foot chases as they do in cars, but everyone’s better off for it. The series had been known for being so monumentally stupid that by the second installment, complete with squeaky cars that look like they were driven straight out of the Matchbox factory, rival studios were mocking it with brain dead rip-offs like Joseph Kahn’s Torque. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that Fast Five, the latest in the series, is also the best, earning every dollar it receives at the box office.
Series archetypes O’Conner (Walker) and Toretto (Diesel) decide that running from the law is losing its appeal — they’re becoming old men, after all. When they find an important chipset hidden in a Ford GT40 (jacked in an elaborate train robbery early in the film), they decide to use it to take down Rio de Janeiro’s suprem-o drug lord Hernan Reyes (de Almeida). Their goal? A heist. $100 million straight out of Reyes’ vault. To that end, they recruit many familiar faces from previous films to help them pull it off. Simultaneously, the Americans have sent their supreme bounty hunter (Johnson) to track the gang down and extradite them back to the States by any means necessary.
We had just seen the first two films as a brush up before going into this one and the difference is dramatic. One thing that surprised me was how little CGI was used throughout the elaborate chase sequences, the filmmakers using practical effects everywhere they could, brutally wrecking dozens of cars in the climactic, vault-dragging sequence we see in the trailers. Director Justin Lin (who gave us 2006’s Tokyo Drift and 2009’s Fast and Furious, this film’s lead-in) was obviously born to lead this franchise to legitimacy. The film is gorgeous, the characters are fun to watch and while it maintains the hard-tack un-realism (the film is supposed to take place before Tokyo Drift, yet features late-model Dodge Chargers and Challengers), pig-headed action sequences, and everyman performances that the series is known for, it does it so well that you forget that you’re having a genuinely fun time.