April 29, 2011


You know what a Fast and Furious movie is by this point.  They’re loud, obnoxious, somewhat-heartless, sometimes unintentionally hilarious, rarely intentionally hilarious, incredibly aggressive action movies.  You know that’s what you’re getting when you buy your ticket and the only thing that’s changed about the series is that it’s become less about racing and more about squeezing in familiar faces to pull off some high-octane crime.  Fast Five ditches the racing almost entirely and replaces it with a heist film that recalls Ocean’s Eleven but with brawn instead of brains.

World’s Worst Law Enforcement Agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) have busted Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of prison by staging a gigantic bus crash that killed no one and only freed Dom.  Some films spend their entire runtime figuring out how to free a prisoner from captivity.  I like to imagine that Brian and Mia wrote down their plan to free Dom and this is what it looked like

Step 1 – Force prison bus into gigantic crash using fancy driving.

Step 2 – Free Dom.

Step 3 – :)

The three make their way to Rio where they join up with former accomplice Vince (Matt Schulze) for a spectacular train heist.  Most of Justin Lin’s action scenes in Fast and Furious felt inert, but this time around he’s really upped his game and pulls off some impressive set pieces.  The train heist goes a little south as Zizi (Michael Irby), the guy who hired Vince, is along on the job and tries to kill Dom and the gang, but ends up murdering some hapless DEA agents instead.  Dom, Mia, and Brian get free with a GT40 that contains a microchip.  The chip contains the locations of the cash houses of nefarious businessman and Zizi’s boss, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).  The trio decide to rob Reyes and bring in a cast of supporting characters from the previous films to pull off the heist.  However, this not only puts the gang in the crosshairs of Reyes and his infinite supply of goons, but Dom, Vince, and Mia are pegged with the murder rap for the DEA agents.  The U.S. government sends in Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), an agent hellbent on bringing the three fugitives to justice.  Hobbs is like Tommy Lee Jones’ character from The Fugitive if someone said “Yeah, but let’s bulk him up and strip away the charm and intelligence.”

But that’s really Fast Five in a nutshell: bulk it up and strip away the charm and intelligence.  The film desperately wants to recall Ocean’s Eleven, right down to having two members of the heist constantly bickering with each other like Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.  But while the film pretends like it’s going to set up a fast-paced, clever heist, it eventually comes to the stupid solution you knew it was going to reach because this is a Fast and Furious movie and clever plotting is for sissies.

And if bringing in a sinister bad guy and relentless manhunter sounds like a lot of plot threads for a Fast and Furious movie, it is.  The movie runs over two hours long but just because it’s bigger, that doesn’t mean it’s stronger.  There are plenty of places where the movie could trim the fat, but for the filmmakers, bigger equals better.  However, fans of the franchise will most likely be overjoyed with having more—more chases, more fistfights, more babes, and more stuff blowing up real good.  Fast Five is the franchise on steroids and while folks like me shudder at that thought, fans are probably giddy at that prospect.

For all my problems with the franchise, Fast Five is probably my favorite so far (note: I haven’t seen Tokyo Drift).  It drops almost all pretense, wisely gives Paul Walker’s boring Brian O’Connor as little screen time as possible, and has some of the best action sequences in the franchise to date.  But there are times when Fast Five feels like it has to mean something as if we’re going to care about characters who pretend to be human but can survive massive car wrecks and falling hundreds of feet without so much as a scratch.  I don’t care that Dom is mourning the loss of a loved one and has found a connection with a local Rio cop (Elsa Pataky).  I don’t believe Dom when he tries to talk about “family” with his fellow criminals.  You can’t have the camera spend an eternity glaring at the asses of hot young women and then make me believe that Fast Five is about anything more than jamming sex and violence into your lizard brain.  If you want to do that, fine.  Just don’t lie to me about it.

There are so many problems I have with the Fast and Furious franchise but at this point I’ve simply ceased to care.  Fast Five is at its best when it shares that indifference and instead focuses on making the best action scene with the slickest production value possible.  The characters are simple, the action is loud, and the bravado is so thick you’ll choke on it.  Were you expecting something else?

Rating: C+


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  • RickC

    After all the bashing of the movie (and series) Goldberg did, I’m surprised he had time to actually write a pretty good review. I probably won’t see this in the theatre but will have a few beers and check it out on Blu-Ray (for all the fine lady asses mentioned above).

    One question for the reviewer…Why, of all the movie series out there destroying film, does this one get your ire up so much? Seems like a lot of effort getting pissed at something that is prevalent in almost all action movies (unrealistic car chases, crashes, action scenes, muscled dudes acting tough, etc.) like somehow Fast and The Furious ruined those tropes? Were they ever really successful or clever?

    • Matt Goldberg

      There’s a callowness to F&F that irks me. There are plenty of films that go for a lowest-common denominator, but I like when creativity is brought to the table. One of my favorite films this year is Hobo with a Shotgun, which isn’t high art but there’s a brilliance to its low-brow approach and it never takes itself seriously. F&F on the other hand, shoehorns in drama and while F&F hasn’t “ruined” any action-movie tropes, it rarely brings anything new to the table. It’s an approach of quantity over quality.

      • Steven

        This is something of a double standard in nerd culture that I’ve never really appreciated: a bad movie should be a bad movie, the qualifier of whether it “takes itself seriously” just seems way too vague and tenuous. It sort of seems like an excuse to be countercultural without having to admit that you still enjoy some equally bad movies.

        A movie that tries and fails, no matter how hard it fails, in my opinion is better than a movie that never took itself seriously if only because it shows that one at least aimed to accomplish something wheras the other knew it could just dick around and still make all of the Troma fans swoon.

    • Cordell

      This was a biased review, I thoroughly enjoy popcorn movies, this is not the “Kings Speech”, this is an ACTION movie with guns, driving hot cars, fast girls, violence, etc, appreciate the art of entertainment and not be so serious all the time. If you check all the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, everyone that saw it, loved it, thats all that counts. In addition, most established reviewers gave it a solid review. Its basically “Fast Five” meets “Oceans Eleven” and they did a good job.

  • Aurora

    Matt, really, stop reviewing movies you’re determined to hate.

    • Matt Goldberg

      Thanks for the tip. I almost never go into a film determined to “hate” it because otherwise it’s a waste of my time. By the same token, I never go into a film determined to “love” it because I don’t want to slant my review one way or the other based on preconceived notions rather than what the film actually is.

  • Hairyman

    Harsh. I quite enjoyed this film. More than I should have. But, then again, I am an action movie junkie and it hit all the right notes. I am sorry that you didn’t like it. But a C+? I would give it a solid B.

    • Guns Of Navarone

      I totally agree with you. I would have given it a solid B also. Given the fact it is an action movie and should be merited on that alone, it is certainly more worthy of a C+. The stunts were incredible.

  • sharrow

    share with you a very good website

  • Charles Overlay


    he seemed to put aside more off his franchise hate for this review-

    not nearly as bad as this review

    that may be the worst review ever!!!

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  • CrowX2M

    Dude, Y U so critical?

    Of course, people will go to see it. I can honestly say that this is my second favorite F&F movie, Tokyo Drift being my favorite (of course that would have many of my friends smacking me upside the head…)

    Fast Five does take it more to the action side instead of just having racing the entire series, and the whole thing about family makes sense. I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to find a car meet like what they show in F&F but I do know that I consider my racing crew part of my family, and thats the feeling that their trying to make in the movie. How about instead of giving bash reviews on movies, go spend a few weeks at the race track, or if you feel you can handle it, out in the street scene and see how close it is.

  • Alex H

    I’ll admit, the “Fast” movies aren’t anything to write home about, but they’re definitely entertaining. I feel like you were a little too harsh on this, Matt. Sure the dialogue’s cheesy and some of the situations are over-the-top unrealistic (there’s no way a bus full of convicts would travel without a police convoy), but you have to admit there’s a certain entertainment value to it. I find it hard to take a movie like this seriously (‘Faster’ and ‘Drive Angry’ to name a couple recent ones), but when it keeps me entertained for the majority of the running time, I find that cheesiness easy to forgive.

    I think this movie deserves a B-. But everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

  • Nabil

    I love you Matt.

    Your reviews are always great, and your taste is even better. And thank god there are other people like who find this series irritating and obnoxious.

    Yes, the action is well staged, and practical. But if you don’t care about the characters or have any invesment in the story, and there is no tension or danger involved for these characters, who cares how good the action is?

    There are a few chuckles here and there, mostly unintentional I would say, like the way Vin Disel inexplicably burts out, ” This is BRAAAAASIIIL!” But most of the jokes are insanely broad and bland, to the point you’d think they made this film for a foreign audience.

    Overall, I thought it was an obnoxious and repetitive film. I’m glad there are some critics out there that have some taste, since most seem to love it, and some have even called it ‘Perfect’.

  • Matt Goldberg Sucks F&F Producers Dick

    Matt Just Shut Up!!!!
    Your Garbage at Judging…..
    Lmfao, if you ever tried to make a film, let’s see your film getting more then 25million in box office….
    Lmfao, so please don’t post bad about a movie you don’t like… It’s all opinion, and if you cant keep your opinion to yourself, then people like me will have to step in and say stfu

    • Patrick

      Uhm…yeah you realize this is his job right? It isn’t as if he came up to you while in line at the theater and slapped you across the face and then gave you his opinion. This is the website he writes for and you have come to visit it so to say ‘keep your opinion to yourself’ nonsense. This isn’t the playground at your Jr High.

  • Rick Chung

    FAST FIVE is both faster and more furious. A look back at the FF5 franchise:

  • mofopimp