Fast Five is among the best fourth sequels ever — not exactly high praise but more than I expected to dish out.
It's fast, as the title promises, and more furious than ever with Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson butting bald heads and swapping pecs flexes. After three turns in the franchise's driver seat, director Justin Lin has this zoom-boom formula down pat. Fast Five is brawny dumb fun, nothing more, but that's enough.
Newbies shouldn't worry about skipping the previous Fast and Furious flicks, especially Lin's Tokyo Drift debut that Fast Five pretends hasn't happened. (A racer who died in that movie is alive and gear-kicking here.) Everything you need to know is summed up with a few growled lines of dialogue. Just buckle up for one wild ride after another, interrupted by archly dramatic speed bumps.
Fast Five begins spectacularly, with a bus-flipping jail break for Dom Toretto (Diesel), led by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her boyfriend, ex-cop Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker). Dom is getting used to his sister dating the guy who used to chase him, especially when Mia reveals she has a bun in the carburetor. Before long, they're back to business as usual, boosting high-end sports cars.
This time it's Rio de Janeiro streets being conveniently cleared for the vehicular mayhem. Fast Five spends most of its time in the city's slumdog regions where a suave mobster named Reyes (Joachim de Almeida) runs a money laundering network. A GPS data chip in a car stolen from Reyes contains incriminating information, so he's chasing Dom, Mia and Brian. Ditto for no-nonsense U.S. federal agent Hobbs (Johnson, graciously bearded to distinguish him from Diesel).
Dom reunites his wisecracking gang for — all together now — one final heist that naturally won't go as planned. It will involve more sports cars, always stolen, a 10-ton safe dragged like a tin can behind a wedding limo, and several sweaty glare-downs. Anytime a villain gets the drop on a hero, another hero off camera will shoot him dead. Speed is the film's essence; even subtitles zip by like white lines on a freeway. There's no time to consider how illogical something is before something else crazy happens. I like that in junk movies.
Who doesn't enjoy seeing The Blues Brothers' record of demolished police cars being challenged? Or a high speed train-jacking that winds up with a giant go-kart t-boned into a boxcar, with a guy trapped inside and a tight bridge ahead? Or the Diesel vs. Johnson beatdown that action geeks have dreamed about? Fast Five gets your motor running with sequences like that.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.