by Rob Simpson
One of the greatest cultural tragedies is the remake and of less melodramatic stock we have the sequel. There are examples and then some in the contemporary era but we only need two different film series when commenting on the over-use of the sequel and those are Saw and the Fast and the Furious. The latter has another new release in the shape of Fast Five.
The latest in the fast and furious series opens with a daring plot by Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) to free Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel). They succeed, but the way in which they do so completely disregards either psychics or reality. The escape plot boils down to the two love-birds driving alongside a bus transporting convicts to prison and then forcing the bus into a hole not only does the bus crash, when the dust settles the bus barely exists on a molecular anymore. Still a newsreader still has the nerve to say that nobody died in the crash, I couldn’t contain my laughter here.
Ludicrous the film may be in its presentation Fast five still had a story. After breaking out of prison, the escape party of Brian and Mia head for Rio to lie low. Nothing out of the ordinary there, unfortunately they both are incapable of being silent and instead take an ‘easy job’ to steal a convoy of cars from a moving train. Dominic turns up out of blue to meet his sister and friend on this job, its then when events take a turn for the sour. Three DEA officers are killed and they are betrayed by Reyes, a corrupt business who owns Rio. To make matters worse they are now being pursued by Robocop, or Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Under all this chaos the film is both a revenge and heist film, the heist in question is whereby they attempt to steal Reyes’ fortune.
It’s quite the convoluted plot for a series which is renowned for its stupidity. Yet at the same time there are great stretches of time where nothing happens, especially in the middle third. Its qualities like this that make the already overlong 130 minute almost unbearably long. Fast five is the least fitting film to bear the word fast in its title; the film plods through its running time.
Not only does it take a long time to tell the audience anything other than cars are fast and bald men are scary, it fails to have a lead character. Instead it has a cast of lead players. In the opening third, its Paul Walkers story, in the middle everybody has a go, from Tyrese Gibson to Sung Kang and Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson too, in the final third it’s the cars turn to take the lead. This might sound like a chance to spend time with all the different cast members although at the same time it gives the film a lack of focus.
It’s not like time you spend with actors is well spent as very few of the actors are anything other than perfunctory. In actuality there are people who are better and people who are worse. For instance, other than the cars and the insane closing set piece, the highlight of the film is the Rock. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, knows what the film is, he knows that this is a stupid and over the top film with machismo leaking through every crack and as Hobbs he captures that perfectly. I mentioned the cars as a stand out performance too. That might sound like a strange comment to make, but when most cast members are as awful as they are you have to look for positives somewhere. Luckily, cars are the order of the day as that is what the fast and the furious series is renowned for many than anything else. Petrol heads have plenty of sights to see, smell and enjoy in this film.
The bad performances come from every other corner. Vin Diesel looks bored, Paul Walker as actor is an empty vacuum somewhere out in space. Ludicris and Tyrese Gibson play the same old stereotypical black men who have been in countless films with the same swagger and sarcasm that these two seem so proud of. Almedia plays the typical Hispanic villain that he is frequently typecast as. The rest of the cast are barely visible. They may take the centre screen on their fair share of time however they fail to stand out for anything other than the psychical – in the women we have their beauty and the men have more muscles than humanity.
Fast five may not have a stellar cast at the height of their powers; then again it’s not calibre of film. Director Justin Lin has made a film which celebrates car culture as well as revelling in the excessive and over the top. It may fail elsewhere, but it’s here where the film succeeds. Its here we see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The glowing points come from the clash between Diesel and Johnson. As a clash between titans it was fine, what made me smile was the fact that there was many occasions where I didn’t know who was who. It was just one bald man fighting another, it could have easily been that one guy who split himself into good (white t-shirt) and evil (Black t-shirt) and fought himself. That idea made me smile more than the fight itself. The other occasion is the climactic chase through Rio which was crazy, maybe not as exciting as I would have liked, but seeing Rio destroyed in such chaos was nothing less than eminently watchable.
If you are a fan of the series then is definitely for you. It’s sad then that when the credits rolled and seeing the set up for a sequel that followed you will begin to question whether this series has had its moment in the sun.