Thursday, 5 May 2011

FAST & FURIOUS FIVE review

In cinemas now is the return of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as the crooked car enthusiasts, this time joined by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as the FBI agent sent to track them down. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...


Following the events of the fourth film in the franchise, disgraced former cop Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom (Vin Diesel) have founds themselves stranded in Rio and short on cash. When a train robbery doesn't go according to plan, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) uses new found information to track their whereabouts. With Hobbs hot on their trail and hoping to steal enough money to take them out of the game for good, Dom and Brian enlist the help of some old friends to rob the wealthiest crook in Rio.


I'll say it up front that I've never been a fan of the Fast and Furious films. I'm not really a car person, nor am I particularly fond of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, so I wasn't exactly desperate to see another installment. Well, never mind what your opinion of the Fast... franchise has been so far, this is a new chapter in the cinematic lives of Brian O'Conner and Dominic Toretto. Instead of the focus being on muscles, muscle cars and cars, the series has matured into a mindless array of bank robberies, foot chases and unbelievable stunts; and all the better for it.


Not abandoning the petrolhead, street racing contingent of its audience completely, there's still plenty of four-wheel based action, but the series has shifted focus so much that when the characters need to race a local hoodlum to win his suped-up car, they don't even bother showing us the race. It may bother purists of the series, but it's a bold move that signals the intent to move away from the street racing roots of the original.


Chasing down Vin Diesel we have the new addition to the cast, Dwayne Johnson (here earning his The Rock moniker by being the size of Alcatraz Island), engaging in a competition to see who can be the biggest, baldest bad-ass on screen. At one point in the early 2000's these two actors were considered rivals; both heirs apparent to the action king throne that had been vacated by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whilst we've all got our favourites I'd personally call The Rock the winner of that contest, but it's good to see the two men face off in a friendly rivalry in a franchise that undoubtedly belongs to Vin. Schwarzenegger/Stallone or De Niro/Pacino it may not be, but it's the nearest we've got in modern action films.


The risk with bringing back all of the past franchise stars was it could alienate those who aren't overly familiar with the preceding films, but thankfully this is less of a love in and more of a respectful appreciation of the franchise so far. When Dom and Brian set about putting their team together, much like the Ocean's franchise you simply don't need to know where these characters have come from, just that they're all connected in some way. Not all of the characters warranted a return, but I suppose it's nice they can be part of the series' revival.


They're no master criminals for sure, but it's quite easy to get swept up in the playful nature of the plot. I'm sure that under closer scrutiny the whole thing could fall apart, but the film is full of fun action that provides an easy distraction from any narrative flaws. Subtle or intelligent this film is not, but it does deliver where it counts, in particular the ridiculously action packed opening train robbery and the climactic bank heist. Given that The Rock is such a likeable screen presence, the film suffers a little from the lack of a proper bad guy (Joaquim de Almedia's Reyes doesn't really cut it as a villain), but he's still an interesting character to throw into the mix.


As a viewer who got bored with the franchise after the first film, this latest installment proves there may be some fuel in the tank left. Adding Agent Hobbs as the antagonist is one of the smartest moves the Fast... franchise has made yet, giving Brian and Dom's homemade A-Team their own General to chase them down. The series is a sure thing to continue (part 6 has already been greenlit), and for the first time I can happily say that I can't wait to see the next one. The sooner the better, or as they say... fast.

Verdict

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