A fast paced, visually breathtaking trip to Rio.
Reviewed for MovieWeb by Harvey Karten
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Chris Morgan, characters by Gary Scott Thompson
Cast: Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludcris, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang
Screened at: Lincoln Square, NYC, 4/25/11
Opens: April 29, 2011
You could travel to Rio, but it's a hassle. If you're leaving from New York, you'd be in the air for eleven hours and landing not in Rio but in São Paulo, then taking a connecting flight to your vacation spot. You're also going to limit yourself to Ipanema or the other beaches because you're not about to tour the favelas (slums), are you? There's a solution. Go to "Fast Five" and you'll see the slums close-up, you'll see the entire city from the air, you'll observe the famous Christ statue for which the city is famous, and it will cost you twelve bucks more or less. What's more you might even live in a town that has a big IMAX screen, and "Fast Five" is just the kind of movie that can benefit from tall. Thankfully it's in 2-D as well. So what are you waiting for? The picture is going to break the previous opening weekend record of $71 million, you'll observe Vin Diesel as he earns $15 million all for himself without having to act any more than Paul Walker can, and you'll be all set for "Fast Six" which was filmed back-to-back with this one.
Only trouble is, as one critic has stated, the movie has about as much brain as the bucket of popcorn for which you paid ten times as much as the theater owners did. But you already knew that: you're not looking for Shakespeare this weekend, and you get what you came for: action, action, action-plus a few good zingers from scripter Chris Morgan and a whole bunch of stunts skillfully directed by Justin Lin, the Taiwan-born director who profited greatly from attending UCLA Film School-though not as much as Vin Diesel who shows that you can drop out of Hunter College and still make a fortune.
"Fast Five" opens ,well, fast. Dominic Toretto(Vin Diesel) looks unhappy in a bus on the way to start his 25-life sentence in a California max prison, but not for long as Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) arrange for a massive bus turnover on the highway. Next thing you know Dominic, Brian and Mia are off to Rio-though one wonders how they got out of the country or, for that matter, how they will eventually get out of Brazil. Vince (Matt Schulze) relates the job he has for them, but Dominic and Brian are intercepted by Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), the drug king, who "owns" the favelas as he provides the inhabitants with electricity and other goodies. Reyes wants to know the location of some stolen cars, one of which contains a computer chip with the names and addresses of scores of drug drop-off centers. When FBI agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson-who looks more like a tank than a rock) teams up with Elena (Elsa Pataky), who is looking for revenge as her dad was killed by Reyes' men, the action builds up leading to the inevitable, brutal, hand to hand combat between Hobbes and Dominic. And that's not even the climax.
The plan is to rob Reyes of $100 million in cash which he has in a ten-ton vault, one which requires Reyes' handprint to open, but that's not a formidable problem for the team of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot) and others, who will divide the loot equally.
Two stunts stand out. One involves jumping from a height that would scare off even the divers at Acapulco's La Quebrada into the water, though the more exciting one-exciting because it involves wholesale destruction (and we all like to see things destroyed) of driving the ten-ton safe through the street of downtown Rio. As the safe hit cars on the street, vehicles are totaled. As the safe hits walls and poles, same idea. The race with the safe is the one item that may have never before been tried in the movies, standing out as the picture's most original idea. The movie is fast-paced, suspenseful, has some romance particularly between Dominic and the now-pregnant Mia, and enjoys the top-notch casting of Joaquim de Almeida as chief villain who has every cop in town in his payroll. And did I mention that the picture is sans brain?
Summing up, then, you can go to Rio paying a lot more than $12 for the experience, you can swim in the waters and dine on feijoada, acarajé and Coxinha, but you'll never pick up anything like the thrills you can witness at your neighborhood theater's screening of "Fast Five."
Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online