Ever since ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Torretto (Jordana Brewster) broke her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) out of custody, they’ve traveled border to border to evade authorities. In Rio de Janeiro, they must do one final job before they can gain their freedom for good. Assembling their elite team of car racers, Brian and Dom know they must confront the corrupt businessman who wants them dead before the federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail finds them.
Have you ever watched the first few films in a series and thought “Yeah, these are okay and are pretty entertaining”, but no entry up to that point had blown you away quite yet only to get to one particular film in the series and go “That’s more like it”? Well, that’s exactly how I feel with the Fast & Furious franchise and Justin Lin‘s 2011 installment Fast Five, a completely innovative and pulse-pounding entry in the saga that totally changes the Fast & Furious series as we have come to know it up to this point.
These films sort of have a reputation for being disposable racing films with not much substance, even if a large part of the racing sequences are fun to watch. A lot of them are ridiculous, over-the-top, and can feature some genuinely cringe-worthy dialogue (mainly in 2 Fast 2 Furious and the most recent Hobbs & Shaw movie) but despite all this being true, I knew that this franchise had some true potential.
I was waiting for what felt like forever to finally watch a Fast & Furious movie that blew me away and reminded me why I love action movies so much and thankfully Fast Five is exactly the film that did that. It’s so exciting and different from the rest of the series that you’d swear a completely different set of writers and directors hopped on board for this fifth entry, but it’s actually the same team behind the past few movies.
Justin Lin is back in the director’s chair which made me happy right off the bat because it was clear with his previous work in this universe that he is a talented filmmaker, but the inclusion of screenwriter Chris Morgan worried me before I eventually sat down to watch this film. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he did a good job penning the scripts for both Tokyo Drift and 2009’s Fast & Furious, but even still, he isn’t the most amazing screenwriter out there.
I thought maybe it would have been better if they got a more experienced screenwriter to jump on board here, but man was I ever wrong. Chris Morgan’s script here is the best one in the franchise up to this point. It’s witty, thrilling, and is genuinely full of substance which was something I did not expect to see in a Fast & Furious movie.
As stated earlier, this franchise is practically known for being nothing more than muscled-up dudes driving fancy sports cars and beating each other up and not much else. But Fast Five comes along to prove that this series can actually have a sense of heart as well as good characterization on display.
We get to learn a whole lot more about Dominic Toretto in particular in this film which was quite a delight to see. In the previous entries, he kind of just felt like the one badass character that did a lot of cool things but we didn’t really know that much about him. Here, we learn about his past and how he got to where he is today, and it made for great entertainment, and I was shocked to see how much thought was put behind his character.
Paul Walker is also, yet again, amazing to watch as Brian O’Conner who at this point, is still my favorite character in the series. There’s just an unexplainable sense of comfort and charisma that Walker exudes that is so palpable. Whenever he is on screen it’s difficult to avoid smiling because of just how exciting his screen presence is.
By far my favorite new addition to this stellar cast though is without a doubt Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Luke Hobbs. The moment his character appears on screen, you understand that he is a force to be reckoned with. Trust me, I am a huge fan of Johnson’s. I’ve seen him in dozens of movies, I’ve watched him during his WWE days and I’ve seen plenty of interviews with him. He’s a genuinely amazing guy with a gigantic heart and it’s almost impossible not to love him. He’s a wholesome dude.
But I’ll be damned if he isn’t the most intimidating and scary character in the series so far. He is one mean machine in the role of Luke Hobbs and even though I know some of his characters beats later on due to me seeing Hobbs & Shaw in theatres, I still thought he was extremely intimidating and I was actually scared for Toretto and crew whenever he posed a threat to them.
It still kind of sucks to see that Gal Gadot is kind of just there to be the beautiful girl character here though. It’s almost like they cast her in the previous entry just to be the one good-looking girl character and they didn’t even think once about trying to develop her fully. The same can sadly be said here. Why is she even in this movie if she barely gets anything to do? I wish I knew the answer.
Some issues aside, however, Fast Five is exactly the type of shake-up this franchise needed by this point. While watching the previous films in the series, I wasn’t disappointed when the movies ended. But as soon as the credits rolled at the end of Fast Five, I was disappointed. Not because the movie sucked but because it was so good, I felt like I could have watched two more hours of it.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content, and language
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Chris Morgan
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: April 29, 2011
Running Time: 130 minutes