Fast Five: Fueling the Formula

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) must be getting a bit frustrated. Having decided at the end of Fast and the Furious 4 that he was ‘tired’ of running and gave himself up to the police, he must have been pretty miffed when Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) turns over the bus transporting Dom to prison and breaks him out. How inconsiderate. Deciding to lie low in Brazil, they proceed to do an awful job of it, getting into an altercation with corrupt Brazilian businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almedia) after a train heist gone wrong, also attracting the attention of a DSS agent (Dwayne Johnson), who is determined to find them and bring them to justice. On the run from not one, but two angry parties, Dom must be pretty livid with himself.

 

All of this leads us to the premise, which is kind of like Ocean’s Eleven with cars. They gather a team of various skills for one final job, stealing a megaton of millions from Reyes. The kicker is that this massive wad of cash is hidden in a police station, guarded by Brazilian officers with a less than stellar reputation of good moral fiber. Needless to say, some of the team baulk at the challenge “This just went from Mission: Impossible to Mission: In-freaking-sanity,” says one character in a line, which was clearly written for the trailer.

I’ve never seen a Fast and the Furious before, and I entered Fast Five with pretty low expectations. And what unfolds is actually... pretty good. Most enjoyable is its finale, in which they break into a police station, tie two cars to a massive vault, and then literally drive it out. They then cause havoc and a huge amount of property damage, escaping Rio while evading police. Physically impossible? Yes. Utterly ridiculous? Yes. Damn Entertaining? Absolutely.

If there is one thing to be taken from Fast Five, it doesn’t allow logic to suck all the fun out of the film. I often have a go at films for making less sense than Charlie Sheen’s career choices, but it’s incredibly easy for a writer to slave over a film to ensure that it all makes sense, that there are no plot holes to distract from the audience’s attention, and then forget to add any scenes that are actually interesting.

Having said that, I nearly scratched my eyes out at the sheer number of action film clichés that made watching Fast Five utterly infuriating, which was a bit of a shame. So much so I made a list. To spare you, I’ve limited it to three:

1) Using a magical computer to zoom in on a photograph to find the killer in the reflection of a passing car window, often using the phrase “lets enhance”

Blade Runner has a lot to answer for. It’s in the middle of Ridley Scott’s cult classic that Deckard manages to find a lead by placing a photograph into a computer and magically ‘entering’ the photograph to find a vital clue. It was a quite clever set piece that looked pretty good all round. Twenty years later and WITHOUT FAIL I see the same idea being hackneyed in CSI, NCIS and whatever TV fodder that has criminals in it. Sure, it looks cool, and you can make the computer go swoosh, and blink lots of pretty colours, but it’s beyond tedium. Please, come up with a new way of finding the culprits.

2) The scene in which the bad guy kills the henchman for poor performance.

I understand that there is a level of risk and very little job security when you are a henchman in an evil corporation. I doubt they have the best healthcare plan either, but too many times have we seen the henchman being plonked by his own boss. Quite often this scene happens towards the middle and is always designed to make the bad guy look a bit of a psycho. I understand he’s a nasty guy who does nasty things, but the scene is cheap. Seriously, be more inventive with your villain.

3) The female that is really beautiful but also is badass.

Haven’t we mined this enough? Does a women with stunning good looks and a knowledge in weaponry represent the pinnacle in character development? Not when you don’t actually give her any interesting characteristics other than pointing out she’s beautiful and bit dangerous. Yes, there are lots of good films with stereotypes. Jessie Eisenberg in Zombieland is the “geek” for example, but he also has much more to his character than just being geeky. Come on, dig deeper with your characters; she can be beautiful, a bad ass, and suffering from Mysophobia.

 

Ultimately, for all of Fast Five's faults, its clichés and bad dialogue (yes, there’s that too), it does delivers on the plot. The action set pieces are exciting and the heist movie premise unfolds well without dropping into predictability. It’s not going to win an Oscar for… well, anything, but its got enough heart to justify £10 at the box office. Now, if only Dominic would make some better life choices.