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Fast Five Review

There's no two ways about it: <em>Fast Five</em> is an insane movie

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Throw it in reverse! This week, Digital Trends is revisiting every film in The Fast and The Furious franchise before its epic conclusion in Furious 7, in theaters Friday, April 3. 

“This just went from mission impossible to mission in-freakin’-sanity!”

Roman Pearce, you took the words right out of my mouth. It must have been while you and your cohorts were kissing me with your big, beautiful, badass action sequences all throughout Rio de Janeiro. (Sorry, Meatloaf.)

There’s really no two ways about it: Fast Five is an insane movie. If Fast & Furious brought the Fast and the Furious franchise back to basics, then Fast Five took those basics, put them through the Terrigen Mist, and produced superheroes as a result. The Marvel metaphor’s an apt one, because this is absolutely the Avengers of the franchise; not only do we have Dom, Brian, and Mia in on the action, but plenty of other key players from all the past films: aforementioned Roman, alongside Tej Parker from 2 Fast 2 Furious; the cool-as-hell but tragically ill-fated Han Seoul-Oh from the equally ill-fated The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift; and Gal Gadot from Fast & Furious as Gisele Yashar, little more than eye candy then, and a little bit more than that now.

Even Vince from The Fast and the Furious shows up again, if only to die. It’s a veritable who’s who of Fast and Furious favorites coming together as Earth’s mightiest robbers for Earth’s mightiest heist.

It’s pumped up beyond belief, oozing with man sweat, and absolutely insane to behold at every turn.

Like a Marvel movie, Fast Five not only assembles old favorites together, but creates at least one new favorite: Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent in occupation, and a living, breathing, bleeding Under Armour commercial in actuality. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson makes his Fast and Furious debut here in Fast Five, and with him comes an all-new level of absurdity the franchise couldn’t have reached without him.

ff5-2How do I love you, Mr. Hobbs? Let me count the ways:

(1) When Hobbs arrives in Brazil to hunt down Team Toretto, he tells a Brazilian police officer that he needs only two things: Someone to translate for him, and for this particular cop to “stay the f–k out of my way.”

(2) When one of his subordinates comes forward with “good news and bad news,” Hobbs makes his stance on the whole “good news/bad news” thing plainly clear: “You know I like my dessert first.”

(3) When the time comes to tell Hobbs the bad news, he asks for it straight: “Now give me the damn veggies.”

(4) When local cop Elena Neves reviews the Toretto case file, she tries to tell Hobbs that it “doesn’t make sense” that these people would kill American law enforcement agents. Hobbs grabs the case file from her hands, says, “Here’s what makes sense,” then throws the case file to the floor and says nothing further.

The Rock tells a cop he needs only two things: Someone to translate and someone to “stay the f–k out of my way.”

Luke Hobbs is the best. Apparently, the role was originally designed for Tommy Lee Jones, and it shows; Hobbs is basically U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, but many years younger and many pounds of muscle heavier. Every scene featuring a major chase or confrontation between Hobbs and Toretto feels like The Fugitive after spending every single waking hour for a full decade at the gym. It’s pumped up beyond belief, oozing with man sweat, and absolutely insane to behold at every turn.

The big showdown between Hobbs and Toretto deserves special mention. Johnson and Vin Diesel are two of the best action stars of our time, certainly of the modern era. It’s surreal to see these two titans punch, kick, and throw each other all over a warehouse complex. (I should have saved that Fast & Furious story about my dad throwing my uncle through a wall for one more movie!) Johnson and Diesel gave action movie nerds a real gift by joining forces in this franchise, while in the peak of their physical prime; it’s what fans of Schwarzenegger and Stallone would have loved to see in their hey days, rather than waiting to square off until becoming senior citizens.

ff5-3The Rock-infused Fast Five marks a major, obvious turning point for the series. It’s not just about who drives the fastest car anymore. It’s as much about the heist as anything else. There are valid comparisons between Fast Five and the Ocean’s Eleven movies, and for a few minutes there, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. The movie started losing me when going over the minutia of planning the heist against Reyes, attempting a level of intelligence and intricacy that comes much more naturally to Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan than Dom Toretto and Brian O’Connor.

But then the movie eventually decides to forget all that elaborate planning and just let Dom and Brian steal the money by rigging cables to a vault and racing away with it to lure the bad guys out of hiding. It’s a roundabout way of saying, “Well, we could do the Ocean’s Eleven trickery, or we could just do what Fast and Furious does best — take a socket wrench to every problem and smash it to smithereens.” It’s a much better speed for these movies.

Still, the increased scope and cast of Fast Five means a little bit of the intelligence and intricacy of the story disappears. Not that these movies are genius-level by any stretch, but there’s a solid story of family and friendship being told through the Dom and Brian relationship. Some of that falls by the way side just to make room for Roman, Tej, Han, Gisele, and even Leo and Santos — but not all of it. In fact, it creates new story opportunities for some of these characters we’ve already had history with. The budding bromance between Roman and Tej is a highlight, for one. Han and Gisele’s budding romance is even more compelling, considering Han’s eventual fate. (“I thought you wanted to go to Tokyo?” “We’ll get there… eventually.” Brutal!)

And then there’s Mia’s pregnancy. She and Brian are expecting a child. Will Baby O’Connor-Toretto be in the mix for Fast & Furious 6, or will he or she wait until Furious 7 to arrive? I have no idea, considering I haven’t laid eyes on the next movie yet — but knowing that these films need to come up with a solution to write the late, great Paul Walker out of the equation, I expect it’ll have something to do with the family he’s just now starting to create with Mia.

So, there’s emotion here. It’s a little thinner while making room for all of the train robbery and vault-shlepping, sure, but it exists. Sacrificing a little bit of that humanity is a fair price to pay for a superhero version of the Fast and Furious franchise. And speaking of superheroes, the end of Fast Five makes it clear that the franchise is ready to lean into one of the most famous superhero tropes of them all — that no one in comics stays dead forever…

NEXT: Letty Lives!

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