I remember seeing The Fast and The Furious (2001) at a party when it came out on DVD, and I thought to myself, "If they make this a franchise, there's a hell of a lot of money to be made." With the exception of 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), the series has held up to my expectations. Granted, I wasn't ever expecting anything high-caliber, just a fun action film about cool cars, cops, and criminals. That's what I've gotten every time, but when I saw the fourth entry in the series, I got something different - a soundly made film with a good story and solid performances. Fast & Furious (2009) marked the series moving on up from just action fodder to a legitimate franchise, and Fast Five takes it and runs. Or drives, rather.
As the film opens, right where Fast & Furious left off, Dom (Vin Diesel) is being hauled to prison for his crimes in the last film. Of course, he's escaped from prison before, and he's in the trailer for this film, so we can assume he's going to be broken out, and such is the beginning of the spectacular action that follows in the next two hours or so. Fast Five is a breath of fresh air, considering. It follows a familiar formula, set up by the last film, in that it focuses a bit more on the characters than either Tokyo Drift (2006) or 2 Fast 2 Furious. I blame the latter film on John Singleton and a rushed production, and I blame Tokyo Drift's screenplay for its flaws, but Justin Lin (the director behind the last three films) has had a solid footing in his intentions. He's made the series more character-based than might have originally been planned, and given the last two films more solid plots than they probably deserve. It's not just about the cars anymore, but about the people in them.
Having been a fan of this series since the first one, it's easy for me to feel for the characters and understand what they're talking about. They aren't talking about much, mind you, but what they're saying makes sense given the situation. The whole film revolves around a heist plot, in which the assembled team (pretty much the same from the first four films) are gathered to try and steal $100 million from a Rio kingpin named Hernan Reyes, played plainly by Joaquim de Almeida. The dialogue gets a bit breezier and far less heavy-handed as the film progresses, but I guess they just wanted to reiterate the dire spot these carjackers are in - they're being hunted on two ends: by Reyes's thug army, and by forceful federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), who walks away with the film from his first few lines. It's not often that films like these contain genuinely good performances, and it's not often that you'll hear someone say that The Rock gave one, but this one did and he does. His Hobbs is pure steel, but has an extremely playful undertone that makes him endlessly watchable. I almost want a movie just about him and his job.
The film makes it obvious that there will be a sixth one. As long as these films are popular, they'll be made. Series like these aren't made for the story, they're made for the money. The good news about The Fast and The Furious is that it's become more about the story, and the money just seems to keep flowing in. I'm prepared for a sixth (and the final scene after the credits completely blind-sided me with the set-up), but I hope it's the last. If they can pull off the set-up they've cornered themselves into, then it'll be a damn good franchise and that'll be that, but if they continue for a seventh or eighth film, they'll drive themselves into a canyon off of a bridge and wait for the cars to explode while everyone's dangling in mid-air. Of course, Fast Five also proves that's possible in the film's world, so we'll see. It honestly could go either way, seeing as how neither logic nor physics play much of a part in the world of these characters.
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