I guess I should’ve expected this, considering that I’ve mostly reviewed independent/art-house films and given a lot of them positive reviews, while a lot of the mainstream stuff I review ends up being crap, just like the hipster inside me. Well I can’t help the decline of mainstream Hollywood film-making. I still do like to have a nice “turn-off-your-brain” experience every once in a while, provided that the film in question gives me a reason to turn off my brain. What I want out of a popcorn summer action flick is dumb-fun that isn’t too dumb to the point that it gets in the way of the fun.
Case in point, Fast Five.
And now, a history lesson…
I’ve kind of had a history with the Fast and the Furious franchise…in that I’ve never really had a history with it at all. I flirted with the first film, but she was ultimately too forgettable to leave an impact on me. When her ugly twin sister 2 Fast 2 Furious came out, she was so horrid and retarded that I put her down 30 minutes in. Since that awful incident, I never visited the family ever again.
From what I’ve heard, Tokyo Drift was a bit more fun, but just as forgettable as the first, and Fast and Furious, the fourth strangely titled installment, was a dollop of horse-poo larger than the second one (Oh yeah, and Michelle Rodriguez dies in it, just like she does every other fricken movie she’s in).
I did everything in my power to avoid Fast Five after first seeing the trailer. While it was nice to have them end the douchebag “street-racing” shenanigans of the first four installments and move on to a heist formula, it was still the type of movie that seemed to have everything going against it. It’s a 2 hour 10 minute movie, it still looked to have the car-fetishism of the first four films, it was housed by an entire roomful of douchebags, and it appealed to the very demographic that I wanted to commit mass genocide on.
Having said all that, some friends and critics have recommended it to me saying that it’s arguably the best installment in the franchise, and it had a strikingly high 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so I begrudgingly entered the theater. So now, prepare yourself for the big M. Night Shyamalan tweest ending: Fast Five is probably the most fun I’ve had in the theaters this year.
Oh, it still has all that stuff that I hate. It was overlong, the characters were still rather one-note (even with many of their character arcs growing for a whole series of films), Tyrese was still an annoying little shit, there was still bits of that singular car-fetishism the franchise is known for, the audience in my theater was still full of the douchebags that I was ready to use my school-shooting-rampage-uzi on, and the film seems to treat its franchise continuity in such a comic book nerd-driven way that perplexes me (The post-credits tease was so effing ridiculous it made even Marvel Studios say “that’s effing ridiculous”).
And despite all these elements, they’re never too dumb that they get in the way of the fun. My main problem with most of the other The Fast and the Furious films I’ve seen was that whenever they cut to scenes of dialogue and plot-development, it all just felt like boring stalling tactics as the audience just waited for the next action to begin.
Director Justin Lin knew this, so he took up the format of a heist film, which already comes with built-in suspense. Now, they were able to have scenes of plot-development and non-driving dialogue segments that still keep the adrenaline pumping. The movie does, unfortunately, slow down at bits where they attempt to haphazardly cram in a “moral message” of “family” and “honor” and “loyalty” and a bunch of other stuff the writers are so obviously pulling out of their ass, but not to the point of boring the audience, as the main focus is the big heist being built up.
Watching Fast Five, I actually felt like I was watching what The Expendables should have been: A big team-up movie of a bunch of talented action stars coming together for “one last job” that actually has some kick-ass action and less of Sylvester Stallone’s ugly plastic surgery face and Mickey Rourke’s crying fits.
The actors are all relatively solid, trying their damnedest to inject personality into their cookie-cutter character so hard that they almost succeed. However, good as most of the main-cast is, they all falter before the might of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s absolutely over-the-top performance.
Johnson’s character is the perfect embodiment of the new direction the series is apparently taking: So straight-faced and serious, yet so gleefully absurd and cheesy, sweating profusely in every single frame he’s in for no apparent reason, bleeding testosterone in all the action scenes, and using the corniest one-liners in all the corn field.
And that’s what’s so great about this installment. This time, they actually revel in their absurdity in a way that doesn’t insult your intelligence. The actors pull-off unbelievably over-the-top stunts with straight-faces, but at the same time, do the impossible and still wink at the audience for the sake of the film’s gleeful stupidity.
It’s like that mentally handicapped friend who knows just how dumb he is, but also knows how to live with it and have fun with it. And then the two of you sniff glue together until your eyes start getting red, then the principal shows up as your best friend begins to rat you out and say it was all your fault when it clearly wasn’t, until you are finally sent to detention for many, many weeks, and I forgot where this sentence was going.
My one big complaint with it (that doesn’t mock the film’s obvious stupidity) is that there aren’t enough real car-chase sequences. There are some good fight sequences, some good shoot-out sequences, some good explosion sequences, some good foot-chase sequences, and some good heist-sequences, but there’s only two real token car-chase sequences, in the beginning and ending of the film, and the thing is that they are both so unbelievably awesome (specifically the last one) that you are left wanting more, which probably isn’t so much of a complaint as it is a request.
Well, case in point, all you need to know is this…
Final Verdict: As someone who was never even in to the franchise, I will say that Fast Five is the most fun movie in cinemas right now. It’s gleefully silly, stupid, over-the-top, and absurd, but never to the point that it insults the viewer’s intelligence, the action is very well-shot and orchestrated, with two rather phenomenally amazing big car-chase sequences, the actors are solid enough, Dwayne Johnson is fucking insane in it, and it’s just a downright enjoyable time at the movies.
And before we leave, let’s get on back to that post-credits sequence, which seems to indicate that a certain character in the franchise presumed to be dead could still, in fact, be alive. And without giving it away, let’s just say: I would officially have sex with the next movie if they called it The Fast and the Furious: The Sixth Sense.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna put my thunderwear on!