Making the Grades
The Fast and the Furious franchise is a decade old, yet it still holds the promise of hauling in some more box office dollars. The release of Fast Five reunites all the characters from the previous films as they plan to pull a job in Rio.
As expected, Vin Diesel is the headliner here, playing his character of Dominic Toretto (usually known as "Dom"). The action picks up exactly where Fast & Furious (the third movie in the series) left off, with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and ex-F.B.I.-agent-turned-friend Brian (Paul Walker) driving in front of the bus taking Dom and a host of other convicts to prison. The pair causes the large vehicle to crash and roll multiple times in order to spring Dom from custody. Amazingly, the hero emerges unscathed from the wreck (we have no idea what’s happened to the other occupants) and is then magically transported to Brazil where the crew hides from authorities.
In the South American city Dom, Mia and Brian realize the only way they can truly become free is by buying their way into a country that won’t extradite them. That conclusion leads to only one solution: More crime. So they begin plotting to take down Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), the biggest drug lord in Rio, which should net them $100 million. But a heist this large means they will need lots of extra help (and cast members). Calling on accomplices (who have appeared in Fast and Furious films over the last decade) they bring back Brian’s childhood chum Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), tech savvy Tej (Chris Bridges), Dom’s buddies Vince (Matt Schulze) and Gisele (Gal Gadot), along with reggae stars Don Omar and Tego. And finally, thanks to a major resurrection, Han (Sung Kang)—who was actually killed in Tokyo Drift (a movie the studio describes as an "offshoot" from the core series)—is brought back to life and looking quite healthy in Rio.
Coming against this army of faces is yet another box office bonus, Dwayne Johnson. He plays Hobbs, a tough F.B.I. man determined to bring the team to justice. By his side is Brazilian police rookie Elena (Elsa Pataky), one of the few female characters not sporting much cleavage (because she is costumed in a uniform).
Once the cast is in place, the plot revs up with the anticipated car chases. But this outing puts the brakes on the controversial street racing scenes, showing only one sequence in which the gang steals police cruisers and fast-forwards them down the midnight streets of Rio. Still there are a variety of crashes resulting in endless destruction of public property—all justified by the gang of "good" crooks trying to take out the really, really bad Brazilian dude. Multiple gunshots are exchanged, with shootings occurring on screen. Physical altercations are also plenteous, escalating to a pivotal scene where the two bald titans—Diesel and Johnson—go fist-to-fist. Johnson discards any remnants of previous "fairy" roles when he bursts out with a sexual expletive that joins a variety of other profanities in the script. And, what would this franchise be without racy babes? A gaggle of women who act as wallpaper decorate a couple of scenes. One of these (who appears to have forgotten to measure the length of her skirt) leaves the audience with a bum view of the activities.
Trying way too hard to look and sound tough, the Fast Five solicited some unintentional laughter from the crowd in my screening. Saddled with a collection of cardboard lines, Johnson delivered one of his worst performances in years, harkening back to The Mummy Returns. As well, this film’s complete ignorance and/or disregard for not only the laws of the land but for the laws of physics, drew some chuckles. Dramatic chase and crash scenes were so over the top that there was no semblance of reality.
Despite all this, Fast Five will likely still be an attractive choice for many male teens. Although it gains a tiny bit of ground for putting less emphasis on illegal racing and trophy women, it still stops far short of the finish line in the family recommended race.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Fast Five.
There are three levels of morality in this film: Official police, bad guys who are the film’s heroes, and real bad guys. How does the script use empathy to align our feelings toward one of these groups? What nationality are most of the characters we are supposed to like? What nationality is the bad guy? How do the U.S. and Brazilian police compare?
What stunts in this movie do you think are physically impossible? Does this add or take away from the overall entertainment experience?