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Fast & Furious 5

Fast & Furious 5

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE Fast & Furious franchise has long been my guilty pleasure franchise of choice. Loud, derivative and largely plot-lite, it somehow remains addictively car crash viewing.

The fifth film in the franchise could just be the best of the lot. It’s certainly the most audacious.

Buoyed by the surprise box office success of its predecessor, Fast & Furious 5 now has a bigger budget and it shows. The action takes place in Rio, the stunts are bigger and more outrageous than ever and there’s even room for big name new cast members as well as the return of former favourites.

The plot, meanwhile, owes more to Ocean’s 11 (call it Toretto’s 10) than past films in the series, albeit without the slick dialogue or intelligent sophistication of Steven Soderbergh.

Rather, this is a heist movie that only knows how to operate in fifth gear – and one that threatens to stall whenever plot or character dares to take fleeting centre stage.

As an action movie, however, Justin Lin may just have delivered a five star vehicle to outdo Michael Bay at his most outrageous, complete with a knowing sense of its own absurdity. For make no mistake, Fast & Furious 5 is fully aware of its own absurdities and embraces them whole-heartedly, just as it does with its out of control testosterone levels.

Each stunt exists to top the one before it, yet most possess a genuinely jaw-dropping quality that’s liable to generate roars of approval from its loyal and appreciative fan-base.

Picking up where the fourth film ended, with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto on his way to prison, Lin’s latest opens with a wildly OTT escape sequence that finds a fully loaded prison bus up-ended, flipped and rolled in spectacular fashion, only for every member on board to survive.

Moments later, it’s in Rio as fugitives Dom, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) hook up with an old acquaintance (Matt Schulze) for a new job involving heisting cars from a train, which produces yet another couple of outlandish set pieces.

When that job goes wrong and Dom and ‘family’ find themselves on the wrong side of one of Rio’s most notorious criminals (Joaquin de Almeida), as well as on the radar of the best US marshal in the business (Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs), they resolve to put an end to their running once and for all – by recruiting a team and robbing the cartel of all their money, despite the fact that it’s being protected by Rio’s corrupt police force.

And so the scene is set for numerous chase sequences, punch ups, flare-ups, ridiculous explosions, girls in hot-pants/bikinis and male and female bonding.
At over two hours, this could have felt like an unnecessary stretch but Lin keeps things lively and seldom stops for breath in between the set pieces – something that is fortunate given the generally laugh out loud quality of the script (which includes such gems as ‘that’s a whole lot of vaginal activity’).

The result is pure adrenaline-rush cinema of the highest quality – one that’s aware of its own limitations but one that’s not afraid to embrace them.

Fast & Furious 5 is an unadulterated crowd-pleaser that joyously delivers a succession of utterly insane set pieces of spectacular quality… all capped by one of the most memorable chase sequences of recent times (where the streets of Rio are well and truly trashed). If you thought some of the chases in Bad Boys 2 were OTT, just wait until you get a load of this!

The performances, meanwhile, are what we’ve come to expect – Diesel’s Dom is still a tough guy with a teddy bear interior who goes doe-eyed at the sight of family, while Walker’s O’Conner remains a steely-eyed do-gooder constantly striving to get one over Dom even though they’re now on the same side.

New addition Johnson is a blast, too, as the scenery-chewing Hobbs, while returning members Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Schulze (among others) all give good value and look to be having fun.

Watch out, too, for a post-credits sequence that not only brings back another surprise character from a past film in the series, but also sets things up for a really intriguing possible sixth movie that – even at this stage – would be massively welcome.

Hence, as absurd, outrageous and hyper-real as Fast & Furious has now become, this fifth film is an unqualified success and an often stunning example of the mindless summer blockbuster at its brash best.

Fast & Furious rewind: The Fast & The Furious l 2 Fast 2 Furious l Tokyo Drift l Fast & Furious

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 5, 2011