The much-needed shot of adrenaline to a dying franchise.
Rio is the palette for this new installment and we are treated to many sweeping shots of beautiful scenery (along with one too many shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue...). An oddly-grainy news montage informs us of the criminal nature of our leads and the film begins. The film wastes no time gradually placing us in the action. It just goes! You know you are in for a ride when even the subtitles race onto the screen.
Most of the movie excels in its genre. But one element was unforgivably bad. The dialogue in the film is suffocating and dry. Everyone talks in taglines. There isn't a line that has any dramatic depth or, shockingly enough, even any intensity. While some of the blame should go on the screenwriters, the cast is just as bland as their material. Diesel and his crew never let an opportunity pass in allowing their dialogue to become trailer-worthy. Instead of speaking in specifics, they speak in summation.
The corny recitation is most awkward with Dwayne Johnson as federal agent Hobbs. Johnson's charismatic charm is nowhere to be found in the film. And while his commanding presence works in most all of the film, there were a few moments where he needed to lighten up a bit. An example: a man walks up to Hobbs and says "I've got some good news and bad news." Hobbs replies sternly, "You know I like to eat my dessert first." The man explains the good news. Then, Hobbs continues: "Now give me the veggies!"
One thing I appreciated most about this newest "Fast" over the fourth one was the realism of the special effects. My biggest complaint about the dreadful "Fast & Furious" was the cartoon-like quality of many of the action sequences. Fast Five avoids looking like a video game and goes for a cleaner look. The result is all the more explosive.
Speaking of explosive, the film contains two incredible action sequences! One takes place alongside a rocketing train (seriously, Hollywood, why the obsession with trains lately?). The second is the climactic chase through the streets of Rio. Both show extreme craftsmanship in the mind of the director, the eyes of the cinematographers, and the imagination of the stuntmen. And the implausibility of the stunts? At the breakneck speed the action moves, and in just how irresistibly entertaining it is, you won't give it a second thought.
Unfortunately, these two huge action sequences bookend a much less satisfying picture. In between we get fistfights, shootouts, rooftop chases, and even, briefly, street racing (in the most wonderfully nostalgic scene in the picture). While the action is consistently first-rate and high-octane, its of a different kind than the normal formula for the franchise. The genre-action consisting of fast cars doing outrageous stunts has now ventured outside of the car to just broad action. The middle section of the film sustains the energy of the film, but I couldn't help feeling that it was just holding back until the climatic push.
Fast Five also boasts a surprising amount of humor. Surprising because it expands beyond the "necessities" of action films: the complaining black guy, the bickering Hispanics, and the flabbergasted deadpan of the white folk (though all of those stereotypes are present as well). This newest installment doesn't rely on the cutesy bits of dialogue to lighten the mood. Instead, the film distinguishes its comedy from its action. There are scenes wholly designated to be comic relief, leaving the action sequences uninterrupted and more intense.
If you stay through the first string of credits, you'll be treated to a brief clip that promotes the undoubtedly soon-coming sixth film in the series (which is being hailed as being the last in the series. . . Ha!). Fast Five should have been the film to put the nail in the coffin of this franchise. But instead, it revitalizes the series to its original energy. While it comes with its fair share of problems, Fast Five is solid Summer-whetting entertainment, unquestionably the best "Fast" since the original. Only one question remains: just how exactly are they going to title the sixth film...?