Speaking from personal experience, if there’s one thing film critics seem to get lambasted for the most – besides being too critical (how dare we?) – it’s panning summer blockbusters. I get it, folks. I really do. They’re enjoyable because they’re light entertainments with limited ambition and, ironically, excessive resources. But they can still be good, can’t they? Well, Fast Five is good. It’s a big, stupid summer blockbuster with nary a thought in its head beyond distracting the audience with big stupid explosions for a couple of hours, but it’s a very good one, filled with charming performances, a plot that makes a modicum of sense and action sequences that are both thrilling and – and this is a novelty these days – easy to follow. We’re definitely looking at the best Fast and the Furious movie since the first one. Who says that sequels suck?
Oh right, the critics. Okay, I’ll admit it. Sometimes we really are a–holes.
So Fast Five begins right where Fast and Furious left off, with Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster rescuing Vin Diesel from a prison transport bus. We immediately see that their plan involved a death-defying stunt that would have killed everyone on board in real life, but clearly the heroes of Fast Five have prayed to all the right gods because collateral damage doesn’t exist in their universe. For that matter, neither do broken bones, sprained ankles, or even the mildest concussions. It’s one of those movies, in which the good guys are untouchable and the bad guys are bullet magnets unless the plot specifically demands otherwise. But the action sequences are brisk, fun and only completely ludicrous when the filmmakers have a particularly inventive idea. The film zips by at such a breakneck speed that questioning the events onscreen seems like a waste of valuable time. Even the subtitles are fast, zipping across the screen like they’re in a pretty big hurry and can only drop by for a few seconds to chat.
Anyway, our heroes make their way to Rio de Janeiro, only to almost instantaneously piss off the local crime lord Reyes (Desperado’s Joaquim de Almeida). He wants them dead, so they plan an elaborate series of clever heists and felonious pranks to piss him off further and steal all his money. Meanwhile, the team – which quickly grows to include characters from every movie in the franchise to date, making for a surprisingly well balanced ensemble – is tracked by U.S. government agent Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, who somehow manages to combine the dogged determination of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive with a particularly mobile porterhouse. Either Johnson has a ‘glistening’ clause in his contract or he was seriously suffering in the South American humidity: he’s covered in sweat in practically every shot, and often appears to be the only actor afflicted by the condition. He’s a welcome addition to the cast, however, and the first truly memorable foe the Fast and the Furious heroes have ever had. His character has actual character, and Johnson makes the most of his best action movie role to date.
Fast Five takes a welcome hard right from the previous direction of the franchise. No, not the car races… the stupidity. It’s borderline incredible that the writer and director of Fast and Furious – easily the dumbest entry in the franchise yet – could also put together this sharp and wildly entertaining bit of cinematic nonsense. I guess nobody is beyond redemption. So well crafted are the action sequences – including the most bizarre demonstration of safe driving I have ever seen – and so clearly defined are the likable characters, that even the most mind-numbingly stupid set pieces warrant sporadic outbreaks of appreciative applause. It’s a simple story with uncomplicated heroes, but both elements of the film are so very focused that the film never gets falls prey to unwelcome diversions, nor neglects any of its enormous cast of characters. If all summer blockbusters were this ‘bad’ then film critics would have nothing to bitch about, and audiences would be a hell of a lot better off.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5/10