By on April 30, 2011

We haven’t tried to review movies here at TTAC since Bertel rejected my piece on Ai No Corrida with the single sentence “Go home, delete that file, and then kill yourself,” but that won’t stop me this time. Fast Five is out, and it hits its marks as precisely as Jenson Button does in wet qualifying. It’s not Senna, and that’s a good thing; instead of being mired in the past and catering to old people, Fast Five lives, awesomely, in the youthful present.

Even if it’s supposed to have happened seven years ago.

To make sure that I gave the newest street-racing superfilm a fair shake, I invited a bona-fide star from the original movie to watch it with me. Those of you who are fast and/or furious with the pause buttons on your DVD players may notice a wingless white Toyota Supra prowling around during the “Race Wars” segment of F&F 1. The fellow standing by the car during the Johnny Tran scenes still owns it, and he also owns half of my Plymouth Neon racer, so naturally we had to see if this new movie was granny-shifting its plotlines or double-clutching the excitement like it should. Spoilers, as they say, are below.

At its best, as with the first and third movies, Fast and Furious is less about street racing and more about what Robert Bly called “the shortage of father in American life.” The protagonists are all fatherless, either through death (Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto), absence (Brian O’Connor, played by real-life NASA racer Paul Walker), or abandonment (Sean Boswell, Lucas Black’s character in Tokyo Drift). They are searching for family, creating their own allegiances on the run. Eventually, they all find what Bly calls “the second King,” a man to replace their fathers. Boswell finds “Han”, a character so popular with fans that the entire franchise was shifted in time post-Tokyo Drift so he could be included. O’Connor finds Toretto and, as we eventually come to understand, Toretto finds himself.

This time, fatherhood plays a more explicit part in the story. Mia Toretto is pregnant with O’Connor’s child, and it’s time to settle down. They find Vince, a throwaway character from the first movie who is now living in Rio with a family of his own, and they began to plan a heist which will set them up for life. Things go wrong, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson arrives on the scene, playing ‘Hobbs’, a take-no-prisoners Federal marshal. You know that Toretto and Hobbs are going to square off at some point, and the movie does not disappoint in that regard. The director does a masterful job of hiding the size differences between Diesel and Johnson. Not since DiCaprio and Hounsou fought in “Blood Diamond” have I seen an odd-sizes scrap this masterfully staged.

Naturally, there has to be some suspension-of-disbelief car racing and street mayhem involved. The second and fourth movies fell prey to an obvious temptation and made the action the central focus. 2 Fast 2 Furious, in particular, does not have a script so much as it has a series of “levels” from a video game. This time, the silly stuff — off-road trucks which snatch Ford GT40s out of moving railway cars, endless between-the-poles drifting, a two-hundred-ton bank safe towed by two Dodge Chargers — serves the plot rather than dominating it.

That plot, in turn, serves the purpose of reassembling the favorite cast members from the past four movies. They’re all here, and if you stay past the credits you will see that I mean that — they are all here. Ludacris and Tyrese return as wise-cracking Handsome Black Men. Sung Kang is once again “Han”, and the four new faces, played by two cross-ethnically gorgeous women and two hilarious Latino guys, fit in well. Joaquim de Almeida plays Reyes, the traditional South American bad guy, and it doesn’t take long to realize that there are going to be three violent forces in opposition here — Toretto’s crew, Reyes, and Hobbs.

The ending satisfies on pretty much all counts, even it it is a bit Return of the Jedi compared to Tokyo Drift’s “Empire” take on things. It’s probably the most enjoyable of the five movies in this series to watch, and if Tokyo Drift is a better and more resonant movie in some ways, this is far more fun. The automotive focus is mostly on Mopar products and the occasional Nissan, although a 996 GT3 RS clone shows up for a few minutes around halfway through. It’s not an art-house film, and plenty of armchair racer-thugs will have quibbles with the fighting and driving scenes, but it’s worth your ten bucks to watch.

For the record, my pal Mark pronounced it “the best one yet”, and given that he earned a buck making the first one, that has to mean something, right?

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26 Comments on “Weekend Movie Review: “Fast Five”...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “Go home, delete that file, and then kill yourself,” – God I’m glad I didn’t have a mouthfull of food or beverage when I read that. A priceless Baruth line.

    Note to editors: Might as well do automotive movie reviews on this site.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Before this my favorite was Tokyo Drift. I think it has a little something for everyone. Its car fun, but not car crazy, unless were talking about some of the stunts being unrealistic. It has a wide range of cars, characters, and side stories. I wanna see more character development though.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Based on that still it could well be the most homoerotic one yet, anyway.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    They almost look like the same person – like Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton . Hard to believe this franchise is still going on since all these movies suck !

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    NASA has racers?

  • avatar
    heywood220

    i have to say ive never been a huge fan of this series, have they had some specatacular cars? Yes! have they had some bad acting? yes! is this series made for my age bracket(27 now)? yes! but if there is a movie with no plot based around cars i would rather watch steve mcqueen drive around the middle of france in lemans, then some guy with to many muscles pretend to drive around wherever! That is my semi drunk rant of the night, thank you.

  • avatar
    ufomike

    As much as I enjoyed this movie, the final scene with the bank vault just makes me ask “What did the laws of physics ever do to you to deserve such horrible mutilation?”

    • 0 avatar
      Zombo

      Motorcycle movies are even worse . For every quality flick like The World’s Fastest Indian , there are a dozen total disasters like Biker Boyz and Torque . In Torque the laws of physics aren’t merely twisted , they’re ignored all together !

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      When there were relativistic light shifts @145 mph in the first movie I never watched another.

  • avatar
    Travis

    I came in here expecting Baruth to hate it. I was pleasantly surprised and agreed on all accounts. A fair assessment the whole way through IMO. It’s a good action movie with lots of carculture thrown in.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    C’mon Baruth…honestly, you choose THAT still? That is gayer than a GLEE boxed set…gayer than a hot tub party at Barney Frank’s…gayer than Lady Gaga’s Christmas Card list…gayer than the pic Ray Wert would have run…

    …and of course, there IS nothing wrong with that, just sayin’.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Just saw it last night, and that was after watching the first 4 in a row all day… yea, I am that bad, I know. :)

    One of those “cross-ethnic” women isnt new, she was the “bad girl” from part 4. Overall, a fun series, and they are going to make more. Dont bother trying to analyze it, just have fun.

    The only thing I didnt like was that they streetraced for pinks to get cars, but they didnt show even one race?!?

  • avatar
    obbop

    Did the good guy win?

    Did he do it for the Gipper?

  • avatar
    jimbowski

    Did I see a Carbon Motors police car in one of the previews? Please tell me that none are present in the movie…

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I dont think so, but the action moves very fast and a lot of the cop cars were in foreign countries so it could have been. Jack undersold the car aspect IMO, I saw lots of cool cars, they werent really so “in your face” with the cars like in the other movies.

  • avatar

    Some friends of mine set up a “Fast Five” week, where we had a viewing of all four movies in their chronological (but not release) order, along with a dinner matching the theme of the movie – Cuban sandwiches for 2 Fast, katsu, rice, and sake for Drift, etc.

    So we had the previous movies fresh in our head when we watched the latest, which helped to remember many of the details. I agree with your assessment. I thought it was more like Ocean’s 11 with cars than just a blatant racing fest, and that’s a good thing. The chase scene at the end made up for the lack of racing action in the middle, and while the action with the safe is impossible in real life, at least I couldn’t spot any blatant CGI.

    I do have to point out that Fast Five actually pre-dates Tokyo Drift.

    Oh, and stay past the first round of credits for a major spoiler for the next movie.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    So.. Suppose there is a scene where two cars are racing neck and neck at full throttle, swerving between cars on the freeway shifting as they hit the rev-limiter. Now in this scene, just before they show the terrified look on the face of the nameless girl in the passenger seat holding on for dear life, does the sweaty and dirty Studly McStrassenracer shift down a gear(in slo-mo), hit the red NAAAAAWWwWS!1!1!-button on the steering wheel of his eye meltingly orange Datsun,(camera cuts to rev-counter rising rapidly), and disappear into the distance in a cloud of tyre smoke and blue sparks?

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    After the granny shifting bit I was expecting more cliches from the first movie to be sprinkled throughout the review. The comparison with the Senna documentary was interesting. There really is a separation between nostalgia and the present with cars, events and movies. Jeremy Clarkson mentioned it in an article several years ago, as well. While I love history as much as any guy watching classic car auctions on HD Theatre I’m also keen to watch as much live coverage from this year’s Tour de Corse in two weeks (at least as much as we in the US are allowed to see).


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