When action movies make it a few too many titles into a franchise, things tend to get a little ridiculous. Rambo may have been a flawed and damaged Vietnam veteran in First Blood, but by Rambo III he was taking out entire armies single-handedly. The Terminator might have initially been a frightening character, but by Rise Of The Machines Arnie was putting on Elton John sunglasses and saying “talk to the hand.” It’s kind of inevitable. Even the best action movies tend to have very simple central concepts that don’t allow for much experimentation and expansion. Case in point is Fast Five. The Fast And The Furious franchise started out loosely based on an article about underground street racing and now in the fifth entry has become a downmarket version of Ocean’s Eleven with more slow motion cleavage shots. Street racing barely even appears in the movie. There are a couple of scenes set at street races, but we don’t actually see the races. The franchise isn’t about that anymore. There are still plenty of cash chases and pileups, but it’s in the service or age-old dumb action movie theatrics and the movie is better for it.
Now, that’s not to say that Fast Five is a good movie…at least not in a conventional way. As a matter of fact it’s pretty terrible with convoluted storytelling, bad acting, wince-inducing dialogue, and ridiculously unbelievable action sequences. But that said, people who love action movies don’t tend to go into the theater looking for compelling characters and an original story. They are there to see things go boom and bad acting and dialogue is part of the charm. Fast Five is one of those action movies so divorced from reality that it becomes hilarious. When a car causes a bus to flip without incurring any damage, you’ve got to laugh. When an FBI agent played by The Rock appears in his first scene covered in more grease than he ever wore in the wrestling ring and immediately tells the commanding officer of the police force, “don’t fuck with me,” it’s hard to keep a straight face. And when wanted felon Vin Diesel inexplicably seduces an honest cop over two scenes in which he gives off what can only be described as “a rapey vibe,” it’s hard not to burst into laughter. Fast Five is goddamn ridiculous, but so ridiculous that it becomes an unintentional comedy. Throw in some of the most intense (and equally ridiculous) action scenes that $125 million can buy and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn entertaining so-bad-its-good kind of movie.
The plot is as barebones as it gets. Paul Walker is no longer a cop and is now full time partners-in-crime with Vin Diesel. They don’t race anymore though. They are now professional thieves and while staying in Rio de Janeiro, Vin decides to rob the local drug lord because that’s what happens in stupid action movies. They assemble a crew Ocean’s Eleven-style, which means re-uniting all of the main characters from the previous Fast And The Furious movies. Fortunately you don’t need to know their backstories. It’s just a collection of guys who like cars and one-liners and impossibly hot chicks who like guns, cars, and guys. At the same time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shows up as the FBI’s leading manhunter with eyes for Vin, who also happens to look like a professional wrestler and covers himself in wrestling grease for no apparent reason. Yaddayaddayadda, there are car chases, stuff blows up, and every famous actor survives.
Director Justin Lin returns for his 3rd straight entry in the Fast And Furious franchise and the guy really has the format down to a science at this point. The movie is 130 minutes long and a car chase, gun fight, or gratuitous shot of a half naked woman is never more than a few seconds away in the entire running time. His action sequences might not make logical sense or follow any established laws of physics, but they are undeniably explosive and thrilling (watching Vin Diesel take out an entire police force by swinging around a vault chained to a hotrod is just as ludicrous and entertaining as it sounds). The movie is silly trash that’s impossible to defend as anything even remotely related to art. However, as cinematic fast food, it’s pretty damn enjoyable. If you like laughing at dumb action movies while still enjoying their ADD entertainment charms, there’s no way you won’t enjoy Fast Five. The movie pure action trash and I mean that in the best possible sense.