Fast Five

Have you ever done the wrong thing for the right reason?  The Bible is pretty clear about not committing murder; but, if you or your family is in imminent danger and deadly force is the only option, killing another human being is legally, socially and morally acceptable.  I suppose on some cosmic level it’s still wrong, and those who’ve faced this horrific situation sometimes feel guilty for taking a life, but still, it’s allowed by our laws.  What about stealing $100-million of a drug dealer’s money and using the cash to start new lives under assumed names in countries without extradition treaties with the US because you’re on the run from nearly every law enforcement agency in the country?  This week’s movie, “Fast Five,” is a whole heaping helping of situational ethics.

A prison transport bus carrying Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and other convicts is intentionally wrecked by former FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Toretto’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and the trio escapes.  Splitting up, Brian and Mia head for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and wait for Dom to join them.  The pair meets with Vince (Matt Schulze), a former member of Dom’s old crew.  He says he has a quick and easy job that the couple can help with.  Desperate for cash, they agree.  The job is to steal three high-performance cars from a moving train.  As Brian gets the keys, he notices all three vehicles have been seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which explains the agents he noticed on the train.  Dom, who has met up with Vince, has joined the job.  One of the crew, Zizi (Michael Irby), announces he’s driving the Ford GT40, making Dom and Brian suspicious.  Putting Mia in the GT, Dom tells her to lay low until she hears from him.  When Mia starts driving in the opposite direction from what he’s expecting, Zizi and his men start fighting with Dom and Brian.  The DEA agents notice something is going on and head for the boxcar.  When they enter, Zizi kills them.  Dom and Brian escape the train but are captured by Zizi and his men who work for local drug lord and crime boss Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).  Reyes wants the car back and plans on torturing Dom and Brian to get the information.  The pair escapes their bonds and beat up the torturer, meeting with Mia at a secure location where she has hidden the car.  All three begin taking the car apart to learn it’s secret.  Vince shows up, claiming he had no idea Reyes was involved, but is actually working for the drug lord.  He pulls a computer chip from the back of a video player in the car; but Dom, seeing what he’s done, takes the chip and tells Vince to leave.  The group discovers the chip contains a map to all the houses where Reyes keeps his money.  There are a total of 10 houses, each containing $10-million or more.  Reyes will stop at nothing to get the chip back.  Also stopping at nothing is Special Agent Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), sent to Rio to arrest Dom, Brian and Mia as they are accused of killing the DEA agents on the train.  Wanting to hurt Reyes and be able to start new lives out of Hobbs grip, the trio devises a plan to steal all of the drug lords’ money, but they need help.  They call in a collection of old friends and former partners including Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Kang Sung) and Gisele (Gal Gadot).  This crews’ mission is to bring down a drug kingpin and buy their freedom along with some maternity clothes for Mia as she’s pregnant with Brian’s child.

Usually, films that are the third or fourth sequel to a big hit like “The Fast & the Furious” tend to get worse and worse the further they get from the original.  In this case, these movies are getting somewhat better.  The second film in the series was laughably bad.  “Tokyo Drift” lacked a coherent story and any original stars.  “Fast & Furious” was mildly dull but tolerable and this fifth installment may be better than the original.  Certainly the stunts are bigger and better, if less probable, than in any previous film.  The first action sequence on the train includes a massive jump off a cliff into a river below.  While I’m sure it was a mixture of CG and stuntmen, it looks completely real.  The DVD would be worth the cost just for the “how they did it” extras on the stunts.

One certainly doesn’t watch the “Fast” films for the acting.  Paul Walker continues to have all the acting range of a sliding glass door.  While Vin Diesel is able to convey rage fairly vividly, normal conversation tends to sound like he’s about to choke on his own spittle.  Everyone else in the cast is able to play their type, well, according to type.  No character stands out as being particularly memorable.  Even Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is mostly reduced to posing and tossing off one-liners that sound similar to those he spouts as The Rock in the WWE.  I’m not sure if it was particularly hot and humid when they were filming, but in nearly every close up, Johnson is sweating profusely.  Big rivulets of perspiration course down from his bald head and drip from his goatee.  It’s kind of gross.

While the script is able to keep the plot moving forward, it doesn’t do much more than fill the time between car chases and gun battles, of which there are plenty.  Of course, we don’t watch these films to learn anything; we watch them to escape, to move beyond our own mundane lives and into the exciting world of crime for the “right” reason and illegal street racing…except, there’s very little street racing in this fifth installment of the series that was based on street racing.  We get a couple of brief scenes in the street racing culture and one brief race, and that’s it.  I realize the filmmakers need to move these characters into other environments and different events that have only a tangential connection to street racing, but, come on, give me some neon, a thumping beat, a scantily-clad bumper bunny, some smoking tires and a race or two!

Despite the lack of racing, “Fast Five” has plenty of action, including the most improbable chase involving two Dodge Challengers dragging a huge bank-type vault through the streets of Rio.  While I’m sure the Challenger is a powerful car, I sincerely doubt it could pull a secured vault out of a wall, much less drag it through the streets of a busy metropolitan area and managing to out run various police vehicles.  I’m more than willing to give a film the benefit of the doubt, but that just takes the cake!  Also stretching credibility to the breaking point is the way some characters in the film switch sides, from law abiding to law breaker, without much motivation.  I won’t say any more about that as I don’t want to give away too much story, but you’ll see what I mean.

Even with these criticisms, “Fast Five” is a mindless couple of hours of fun.  If you don’t think too much about, you’ll find yourself enjoying it as well.

“Fast Five” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.  There’s a great deal of shooting and fighting in the film.  The battle between Diesel and Johnson is pretty intense at times.  The sexual content is very limited and consists mostly of women in very, very short skirts and a scene where a man puts his hand on a woman’s behind.  Foul language is moderately prevalent.

“Fast Five” ends with a bonus scene during the credits that sets up the premise for the sixth installment of the series.  With an opening weekend tallying $83-million in the US and another $80-million worldwide, the next episode in the franchise is nearly guaranteed.  It won’t bring world peace, but there are worse ways you could spend a few hours.

“Fast Five” gets a mindless five guitars.

Its superhero drama, dissimilar blended family drama and love triangle drama at the movie theatre near you this week.  We’re still having problems with the movie poll, so only two options will be available for you to choose.  If you want to vote for the third film or Stan’s Choice, send an email to stating your choice of those two options and that will count as your vote.  Sorry for the roundabout process and we hope to have the movie poll fixed soon.

Thor—Marvel Comics' God of Thunder is cast down to Earth among humans where he must learn what it takes to be a true hero.

Jumping the Broom—Worlds collide when two families from divergent backgrounds get together for a weekend wedding in Martha's Vineyard.

Something Borrowed—After one drink too many, a perpetual good girl unexpectedly ends up in bed with her best friend's fiancé, with explosive complications.

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