Three stars (out of five). Rating: PG-13, and much too generously, for profanity, sexual content and unrelenting violence
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.29.11
If the destruction of personal property were the benchmark of quality in a film, then this one would be a masterpiece. I've not seen so much gratuitous carnage since the Blues Brothers wrecked an entire shopping mall — amid dozens of needless close-ups of shattered storefronts and smashed merchandise — back in 1980.
|Having rather miraculously escaped certain death while dangling from a speeding|
train, Brian (Paul Walker, left) and Dominic (Vin Diesel) face a fresh problem:
They're about to roar off a cliff ... with nothing but a long drop below.
All attitude and relentless road rage, Fast Five is vacuous Hollywood product at its finest. Director Justin Lin rarely allows himself to be bothered by irritating details such as plot or character development; this fifth entry in the Fast & Furious series survives solely on macho posturing, scantily clad babes, screaming engines, spinning tires and gear-shift close-ups. I could make a rude comment about symbolism, and what the latter traditionally compensates for, but that'd be giving way too much credit to Chris Morgan's laughably dim-witted screenplay.
Admittedly, Vin Diesel isn't one of the world's great actors, but under better circumstances he can hold camera focus and deliver a line with gruff, teddy bear charm. But he can't make any headway with Morgan's lame dialogue here, which never rises above hilariously soap-opera-ish twaddle such as "It's all about family" ... this from a guy who has, during the course of this series, thought nothing of putting his sister and girlfriend — and anybody else who might have meant something to him — in harm's way every five to 10 minutes. Like they say, love can be cruel.
I'll give editors Kelly Matsumoto, Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner credit for momentum; they certainly move things along, in the manner of a relentless roller coaster. An endless roller coaster, at that; Fast Five clocks in at an indefensible 130 minutes, which is at least half an hour too long. Morgan pads his storyline with too many tiresome sidebar schemes and blown efforts, and of course we need the token street-racing sequence, with all-but-naked cuties draped provocatively over similarly hot cars. Even stalwart fans are apt to get restless as the third act drags on, by which time this franchise has attempted to re-invent itself as Dominic's Eleven.
That results from this story's extensive character reunion, drawing from faces going all the way back to 2001's The Fast and the Furious, whose success we can thank — or blame, depending on your taste — for the fact that we're still enduring this silly nonsense a decade later.
Lin opens this entry, as is customary, with a typically audacious stunt sequence that ignores both the laws of physics and the human body's resilience. With Dominic Toretto (Diesel) en route to a federal pen for the rest of his life, good buddy Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), roar up behind the prison transport bus and execute a maneuver that flips the larger vehicle, rolling it like a huge metal sausage until it smashes into pieces at the side of this conveniently deserted road.
Cool, said my Constant Companion; Dominic and everybody else on that bus obviously just got pulped beyond recognition, so I guess we can go home.
No such luck. As half a dozen TV newscasters subsequently inform us, "Miraculously, nobody was killed." (Now, there's an understatement!) And, of course, everybody is accounted for except Dominic, who's gone with the wind.