Defying laws of physics, laws of acting, and the law of diminishing returns, Fast Five delivers a ridiculously fun mix of motorized macho mayhem and multicultural bonding. With vintage muscle cars and special-purpose monster trucks, over-the-top-stunts, and a heist that makes Danny Ocean's meticulously timed takedowns look like the stuff of a preschool party game, this fourth sequel in the Fast and Furious franchise is blissfully, brainlessly satisfying.
It's also about a half-hour too long, but director Justin Lin, who has now presided over three of these testosteronic affairs (starting with Tokyo Drift), can be forgiven. Let a kid loose in Toys R Us and it's hard not to fill the shopping cart sky high.
Fast Five opens with an audacious highway bust-out: Dominic (Vin Diesel) is en route to prison, where he's looking at 25 years, when his pals Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) roar up alongside the bus carrying the jailbirds and topple the thing. If this was the real world, the movie would end right here: There's no way anyone could survive that high-speed bus crash, let alone walk away and fly off to Rio.
And Rio de Janeiro is where they go. The filmmakers must have binged on repeated viewings of City of God and the first quarter of Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk and realized there wasn't a better place on Earth to stage shantytown shootouts and rooftop chases splashed in vibrant graffiti colors. Throw in swooping aerial shots of Sugarloaf and the statue of Christ, arms outstretched, gazing down at the bay, the beaches, and the beautiful Brazilians - it's downright cinematic.
Plot? Fast Five has about five of them: a train heist; a rescue mission; a kabillionaire drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) with a vengeful streak; a MacGuffin of a computer chip, and a bank job that involves removing a house-sized steel vault and towing it away with a couple of turbocharged automobiles.
This is a reunion movie, too, as various sidekicks and supporting players from earlier installments - the grinning, garrulous Roman (Tyrese Gibson), the master safecracker Tej (Ludacris), ace wheelman Han (Sung Kang), the Dominican duo Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar), and the glammy, what's-she-do-exactly? Gisele (Gal Godot) - assemble to plan and preen.
And in the Battle of the Biceps, Dwayne Johnson joins the fray as the square-jawed FBI guy determined to bring Dominic and his buddies back to the States. When Diesel and The Rock trade dialogue - and fists, and automatic weapons fire - before partnering up to fight the evil drug king, it's like a thespian grand master class. Olivier and Burton, fuggedaboutit.
In the end, Fast Five, for all its propulsive police pursuits and its bad boys in pursuit of money, is wholesome, we-are-the-world stuff. It's not much of a spoiler to note that in one of the movie's quiet moments (there are two), Mia announces she's pregnant. Boyfriend Brian takes a nanosecond to consider this news, strokes his two-day beard and beams with joy. And Dom and the gang huddle around to express their joy and approval, too.
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