Justin Lin’s Fast Five is preposterously entertaining in all the right ways. Modern cinema likes to couch its action movies these days in special effects and the sci-fi and fantasy genres so much that a film about a heist and people driving cars really fast comes across as a breath of fresh air. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson star in the fifth entry in the Fast and Furious franchise, this time taking place in Rio where Brian O’Connor (Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Diesel) go head to head with evil crime boss (Joaquim de Almeida) and have to assemble a team out of the actors who’ve previously appeared in the franchise. Our review of the Blu-ray of Fast Five follows after the jump.
The film starts where the fourth film ends, with Brian (Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) freeing Dom (Diesel) from jail. They head to Rio where Mia and Dom’s brother Vince (Paul Schultz) is living with his wife and son. Vince gets them to do a car heist off a moving train, but it goes bad when they realize that there’s more going on than just jacking cars. Some American agents are shot by the bad guys and Brian and Dom are blamed for it, so in comes Luke Hobbs (Johnson) to track them down. Hobbs gets Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) as his local assistant, because he thinks she can’t be corrupted.
Good call on Luke’s part as the cops are working with crime lord Hernan Reyes (de Almeida), and when Dom and Brian figure out what’s so special about the car, they realize that Hernan has over a hundred million dollars spread out through the city, and they know exactly where it is. Because they’re pissed off, they decide to steal it, with the help of former colleagues. From 2 Fast 2 Furious comes Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, from Tokyo Drift comes Han Sue (Sung Kang) and from Fast and Furious there’s Gal Gadot, Don Omar and Tego Calderon. Their plan is get Reyes to bring all his money to one location and then nab it. That location: the town’s police station.
Though the franchise has a place in a number of people’s hearts, I have never found the films to be that entertaining, which is why I was pleasantly shocked by how much fun Fast Five turned out. And having seen Justin Lin go from being an art house director to studio grunt didn’t give me a lot of hope. Perhaps it’s the lowered expectations, but on third pass it’s not that I expected nothing from the film, it’s that it delivers exactly what it should as a big summer action movie.
And that’s practical stunts, an attractive cast, a good vibe, and at least a couple of hurdles for the big heist. No heist – as Lin notes on the commentary – should go as planned, and they have to change up their original – though lightly sketched – plan when the game changes on them. What’s also impressive is that the confrontations between Diesel and Johnson have a weight (I think because they both are built more so than the star wattage), and when there’s a change of heart in the third act, you want to see the two work together. It’s a great device (used well in films like L.A. Confidential, to name just one). Few stand up and cheer moments work as well as their filmmakers want them to, but here it’s a great “fuck yeah, I want to see what they do next” beat.
I think the big success of the movie is that it has so many familiar faces, and even if you don’t revere the franchise, watching the large cast play off each other gives the film a lot of heat – it also doesn’t waste time on giving everyone backstories, it just lets them go to work. Sung Kang gets to play a cool character, and he pops every time he’s on screen, while Gal Gadot is positioned to be the next big thing after this film – the camera loves her. Between her and Elsa Pataky, you’ve got solid acting and stunning looks on display. Jordana Brewster is still in the mix, but she’s sidelined with a pregnancy plot. And – not to just focus on the women – the men in this are not so ugly themselves, though the film is mostly filled with muscle swagger.
I think part of the appeal is that film plays on the idea of family. This is a team effort, and everyone acts like siblings in the gang, so there’s a great communal vibe to what they’re up to. It’s not trying to make you fearful that people could die at any moment – it’s about watching interesting people do cool things, but delivers in a way that Stephen Soderbergh’s Ocean’s franchise failed to – those films often leave the audience feeling like they’re watching famous people have a better time than the viewer. But from structure to cast to direction, this is a tight, entertaining film that was better than every major studio effort going for big budget thrills (the closest would be X-Men: First Class, but I think this is a better movie).
Universal’s Blu-ray presents the film in the theatrical and extended cuts (the difference: one minute and more blood effects) in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 master audio. The transfer is immaculate. The extended cut comes with a commentary by Justin Lin, where he admits he learned a lot about how to shoot a group of people by doing episodes of Community. There are two U-Control PIP’s, one the more standard Picture in Picture commentary, the second called “Scene Explorer,” which shows the pre-vis, the dallies, and a behind the scenes window. This though is only done for one scene. The set also comes with a DVD and digital copy of the film.
The disc also comes with second screen application that was not available in time for review. The rest of the supplements kick off with two deleted scenes (2 min.), with a little more family time, and a little more of The Rock acting like a hard-ass. It’s followed by a gag reel (4 min.). Then there’s production featurettes, “The Big Train Heist,” (8 min.) “Reuniting the Team,” (5 min.) “A New Set of Wheels,” (10 min.) “Dom’s Journey,” (5 min.) “Brian O’Connor: From Fed to Con,” (6 min.) “Enter Federal Agent Hobbs,” (6 min.) “Dom vs. Hobbs,” (8 min.) “On Set with Director Justin Lin,” (9 min.) “Inside the Vault Chase,” (9 min.) and “Tyrese TV” (7 min.). This is all pretty surface, but there’s a lot of it, and it’s engaging enough. You get a sense of the making of the film through the supplements.