Blu-ray Review: FAST FIVE Is (Mostly) My Kind of Dumb

Contributor; Seattle, Washington
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Blu-ray Review: FAST FIVE Is (Mostly) My Kind of Dumb
Allow me to start off this review of Fast Five by saying that as a franchise I have no beef with the series: in fact, I'm all for the occasional brawny, loud action movie and I think everyone would be better off admitting that every once in a while, these kind of ventures are part of your balanced movie watching diet. Weirdly, I watched this the same weened that I checked out Drive at the multiplex, and it was interesting to contrast the two experiences in my head. The thing is, I'm not a huge car guy, so the Fast and the Furious films, had less of an allure for me than say something featuring the shambling dead, bullet time, and Mill Jovovich.

My very specific--and likely telling--interests aside, Fast Five marks ten years for the franchise and represents a culmination, of sorts, for the series. It reunites series top-liners Vin Diesel and Paul Walker along with various accomplices from the previous films. The big innovations this time around are the setting--Rio de Janeiro--and a new heavy with the inclusion of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, joining the cast as a "get the job done"-type DEA agent, Luke Hobbs, out to take down Diesel and Walker's Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Connor.

See, Hobbs is convinced that during a high-speed heist of a bunch of exotic cars--from a moving train, no less--the duo killed a couple of DEA agents escorting the cargo back to the States. Of course, thieves with hearts of gold Dom and O'Connor have been set up by local drug kingpin Don Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who wants a GPS chip that strangely, some would even say idiotically, contains the location of all of his cash houses around Rio. From there, the plot involves Dom and his crew attempting to hit all of Reyes' safe houses as a combination bit of revenge/proverbial "one last score" to the tune of $100 million.

I'm not even going to attempt to parse why one would store the locations of their secret money stashes on a GPS chip, and furthermore, why it would be stored in such a conspicuously sweet-looking ride like the one our heroes boost near the opening of the film. Fast Five isn't the kind of movie that bears or really even invites your scrutiny, more intent on barreling from one action/driving sequence to another as the crew plans and executes their big chaotic heist during the finale.

As far as all that goes, I was never bored and in a couple of cases--that final chase, an escape through the favelas early in the film--there was a mild buzz of exhilaration from Justin Lin's direction. Lin knows to keep the camera steady and make sure that you're able to follow the action onscreen most times. There's quite a bit of cutting in the two sequences I described but never in a way that leads to the kind of disorientation that simply makes the scene a bunch of sound and furiousness, if you will. The Rio location allows the movie to move beyond the typical asphalt and chrome aesthetic that has characterized the previous films, but since it's not an especially ambitious movie, the locale isn't really used much beyond the obligatory slum chase.

None of this is really what interests me about the movie. They're decent (not great, but decent) popcorn flicks, after all. What interests me are two currents running underneath the movie--one that's pretty explicit and another that goes mostly ignored throughout the film. The first is the idea of "bros with feelings," something that's marked the Diesel and Walker entries in the franchise from the beginning. Those movies--and this one--are a tangle of bro-mantic loyalty and a lot of talk about loyalty, made even more explicit in this entry after we learn via a couple of heavily telegraphed cues that there's a little O'Connor on the way via Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). The movie doesn't really have time for Mia or any other female, but it does have lots of time for bros Dom and O'Connor feeling things (anger, sadness, and cockiness, usually). I bring this up because it was an interesting companion to the Gears of War 3 campaign which I finished recently--like Fast Five, Gears was in this strange headspace trying to flesh out and realize its characters and define them in terms of brotherhood, but it could never really get them beyond one or two core emotions. I'm not sure either production knows how people feel about one another or would know what to say about it if they did.

The second point, and this is par for the course with the big action genre, is the jarringly fractured morality of it. I caught myself before I wrote "amoral" because after a fashion, Dom and his crew has a certain loyalty/morality among thieves thing going. But, there's a lot of dead cops by the time this movie is over and there's a crazy amount of chaos and violence in the final act that just kind of happens and it's all the stranger because we never see the outcomes--dead bodies--just crashed cars, fire, and damaged buildings. It's a funny thing to get caught up on, I know, but watching those scenes I kept expecting at least some acknowledgment that the action in the movie which should be commended for having an actual sense of physicality in space--doesn't somehow deal with the aftereffects of that action.

I guess what I'm saying is, Fast Five is about the movie that I expected it to be and if this kind of cars, heists, guns, and speed, thing is your baliwick, you should check it out ASAP. Just don't, you know, think about it too hard.

Audio and Video

This is a slickly-produced movie and you're going to get a gorgeous picture here. Like I said, Lin knows how to hold a camera and you get a couple of really nice shots of Rio that'll look terrific on your big screen. The grind of metal and roar of the engines get their due courtesy of the DTS HD 5.1 mix.

Fast Five is on Blu-ray and DVD today.

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