FAST FIVE understands its target audience and does nothing to disappoint it. The fifth installment of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, not tied by the restrictions of being chronologically later than the previous ones, incorporates as many of the elements and characters as it can from those outings into its two hours and ten minutes of running time. Cars zoom, guns blaze, and the quips fly with wild abandon, but the biggest achievement to be found here is the pairing of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. About effing time.
Its a thing of wonder and delight to watch them square off on opposite side of the law, staring each other down with a deadly cool, rampant testosterone gilding the air itself, and biceps bulging through flesh that can barely containe them, so painstakingly sculpted and worked are they that they ripple with what seems to be the first rudimentary inklings of self-awareness.
As for the story, little time is wasted in getting through the first mad automotive dash. Dom (Diesel) is, in quick succession, sentenced to prison as his sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster) and best-buddy, ex-cop and for all practical purposes brother-in-law Brian (Paul Walker), look on sadly. Never fear, the next shot is him being busted out by a team of precision drivers who are so skillful that they can cartwheel a prison bus taking Dom to prison without killing anyone inside, though they only help Dom to escape from it. They may be car thieves, but they have principles. Further never fear, those principles do nothing to prevent the mayhem to follow.
Lamming it to Rio, the trio plan one last big job that will set them up for the rest of their lives. The job affords the viewer the pleasure of watching cars being pilfered from a moving train. A fast moving train. It also advances the story to its first twists. The cars have been confiscated by the DEA, hence the American federal agents on board the train, and one of the cars has a very valuable chip. Its valuable because people die for it. What follows plot-wise is ridiculous, but it just doesnt matter. The DEA has to be involved so that their crack agent Hobbes (Johnson) can be flown to Rio to take Dom and company down. The chip has to involve a drug dealer (Joaquim de Almeida), so that the cars can continue to zoom, the guns continue to blaze, and the quips continue to fly, because Dom and company are fighting bad guys who do things much, much worse than steal cars. Why the chip in a car, and why the DEA is impounding vehicles in Rio are the sorts of questions that have no place. In a very real sense, taking the film seriously enough to worry over those kinds of questions is kind of rude.
But refusing to take a film seriously does not by any means get in the way of enjoying it. A lot. The plot is ridiculous, but it moves along at a suitably breakneck pace with everyone involved eschewing the irony that would kill the mood. Best of all, though, the writers have done a crafty job of audience manipulation. The heroes here are all basically decent guys and gals with a fine sense of camaraderie under the paternal leadership of Dom, a true believer in the family values so sadly lacking in those playing for the law-and-order team. Doms gang breaks the law, but by setting them up against a drug lord and a multitude of corrupt cops, their infractions take on the gloss of righteous rebellion. There is for the audience the vicarious thrill of doing something wrong tempered with the salve of ends justifying the illegal means, even with Hobbes, a smart, determined, and incorruptible cop, but an automaton without compassion or humor.
The characters in Doms gang, while not deep, are certainly a fun group, full of good-natured ribbing between rubber-burning bouts of dazzling driving. Walker once again has the shiny good looks and cocky attitude that is boyish rather than arrogant, while Brewster has gone dewy-eyed with Mias impending motherhood. Chris Ludacris Bridges clowns, Tyrese Gibson gravely assumes the voice of reason before being talked into impossible schemes, and Sung Kang gamely attempts to overcome his addiction to nicotine with salty snacks and Gal Gadot. The best running joke comes courtesy of Tego Calderon and Don Omar, as a bickering pair forever weighing the benefits, or lack thereof, to be found in a negative attitude.
There are plans for at least two more films in the franchise, and FAST FIVE ties up loose ends with a minimum of fuss or dialogue and with that view in mind. It also means that being innocent of all things FAST AND FURIOUS is not an impediment to getting the most out of FAST FIVE, though it may lead to a hankering to catch up on what all the previous fuss was about.