Tuesday, May 3, 2011

AB Goes To the Movies: Fast Five.

It's hard to believe it's been a decade since The Fast And The Furious dropped. In the 3 subsequent films, the venerable drag racing franchise has witnessed the agony of diminishing returns (the deplorable Toyko Drift), and a surprising revival (Fast & Furious) a couple of years ago. Naturally, this resurrection from the dead meant they'd have to make more of these movies, because Hollywood isn't exactly known for creativity and originality. And oh yeah, it's not like Vin Diesel's got that Oscar-worthy role in the hopper. Rev up, it's time for Fast Five.

FF finds the usual suspects (minus Michelle Rodriguez, who got murked in the last movie) destitute and down on their luck in the slums of Brazil. When a routine (yeah, routine. Just suspend all common sense if you wanna make it through 5 minutes of this one) heist of exotic cars from a high speed train (yeah, a train) goes awry, Toretto (Diesel), O'Conner (Paul Walker, wooden as ever) and Mia (Jordanna Brewster) find themselves at odds with a ruthless drug kingpin (how original!) who wants them dead. Quicker than you can say "unrealistic plot machination", the crew recruits a gang of "experts" (Tyrese, Ludacris, and Tego Calderon, but oddly, no Lil' Bow Wow.) from prior movies in the series to help pull off a $100M robbery of the drug lord's drug money. And oh yeah, just to up the testosterone ante, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson shows up as a federal agent on Torreto and Co's tail.

I'm actually amazed I was able to regurgitate the "plot" of this movie, given how flimsy and completely unrealistic most of it is. Mia is supposedly pregnant, yet she's able to jump 300 feet from a rooftop and doesn't even lose the scrunchie on her ponytail, let alone the precious child. Ludacris was a bit character in 2F2F who did little more than tinker with cars, but now he's a computer whiz who can crack industrial grade cast iron safes with a Macbook pro and some Saran Wrap. Torreto goes all Incredible Hulk on us, and literally bursts through a brick wall. The Rock survives the impact of a two grenade SUV explosion, and barely has a speck of dust on his Under Armor muscle shirt. Stock Dodge Chargers can tow 500 ton projectiles (at high speed!) down the streets of a city of a heavily populated urban city without encountering so much as a single traffic light. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel both actually deliver a dramatic line that doesn't make you double over with laughter.

Okay, so I made up that last one. Some things are actually impossible, even in movies.

Reality is, nobody goes to movies like this for the compelling, heart-felt dialogue or carefully crafted, action scenes that stay within the bounds of physics and human reason. Nope, you plunk down money to see F&F movies because there are lots of cars, lots of crashes, and lots of tomfoolery. It is quintessential American "turn off your entire brain" cinematic junk food, and damn does it taste great.

Just when you thought you'd seen the epitome of "wait, they aren't really gonna try that, are they?" moviedom, F5 reinvents the proverbial wheel with some stuff you couldn't even fathom. Sure, lots of what's going on here is CGI, but it's so cleverly pulled off that you don't ever feel cheated. From trains, to humvees, to Volkswagen Touaregs (no, really) no vehicle is left unturned, or unflipped. It's a veritable orgy of smash crash, smash crash that's so patently absurd at times you'd swear a 5-year old thought this stuff up. And of course, that's what makes this franchise among Hollywood's best. I'm already anticipating Fast And Freakin' Un-Freakin' Realistic Six. And you will too.

If there's one thing slightly odd here, it's the deliberate decision to deemphasize the drag racing scenes that served as the hallmark for the prior movies. This one's more of a heist/revenge flick than anything else. Street races are alluded to but not shown, and only serve as plot devices to provide the team with vehicles. It's an odd change, but it guess it shows the direction this franchise is evolving. And besides, you won't miss the street races anyway. The rest of the action is just that good.

The Verdict: Turn your brain all the way off. Or don't. Fast Five is enjoyable either way.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out Of 5)

Question: Did you see Fast Five?!?

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