There's no question that Fast Five leverages our built-in affection for these characters, almost to the point of saying, "Hey, that's Vin Diesel as Dom! Whaddya need him to talk for?" It also capitalizes on our enjoyment of fast and furious methods of transportation, be they car, motorcycle, train, or dune buggy. When you combine this fondness for the series, earned over hard hours of car chases and bro-hugging, you're pretty much going to lose all perspective. Fast Five delivers precisely what a film titled Fast Five should be delivering, even though it's too long, and even though it's not a stand-alone movie. What is it? An apex predator of action franchises.
Vin Diesel vs. Dwayne Johnson. We've all known it was coming, since the days of Vin Diesel's performance in xXx to Dwayne Johnson's take on Beck in The Rundown. Yep, these two have been on a collision course since the world looked around in the early 2000s and realized our previous crop of action stars was getting old. Diesel is back as Dominic Toretto, a man who puts family above all else, an honorable fellow who just happens to be a criminal. Enter Dwayne Johnson as the man tasked to hunt him down. Do I even need to mention he'll hunt him down "at all costs"? You bet he will.
Fast Five picks up right where Fast and Furious left off. Toretto has been sentenced to hard time, no chance of parole, and Paul Walker has finally decided that it's to be the outlaw life for him. Adios FBI, salutations government pension. Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Paul Walker (okay, he plays a guy named "Brian O'Conner," but c'mon, we all know it's Paul Walker doing Paul Walker stuff) are still a happy couple, but they are on the run due to their involvement with Toretto's escape. Where to run? Rio de Janiero, naturally. Rio makes perfect sense because of the beautiful populace, the assumed drug kingpins, fast cars, and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue that no filmmaker can resist.
The dialogue, naturally, is bristling with macho goodness. "GO WALK IT OFF!" screams Vin Diesel, shouting down Paul Walker. Dwayne Johnson tells an unsuspecting Brazilian cop to "stay the f*** out of my way." They drive a car off a cliff. That's not dialogue, but it speaks volumes about what we're dealing with. Millions in property damage is considered, and then executed with glee. Fast Five is an action film writ large, bold and beautiful in its hard-charging simplicity. The franchise also manages to make a smooth transition away from only car chases and races toward a more Ocean's Eleven style ensemble heist movie. Everyone is back, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Gal Gadot -- the only one left out was Lucas Black, a man who must be wondering why his drift wasn't adequate enough for inclusion. And of course you'll want to stay past the end credits, if only to see a writing team paint themselves into a corner for Fast Six.
All in all, a very satisfying time at the movies. It's not in 3-D, which at this point is almost retro in its not charging an audience extra. The cadence remains a familiar one, danger, followed by hugs, followed by laughs, followed by car chases. Like a cool beach breeze on a sunny day, Fast Five provides just enough to get you in the mood for summer.