As I watched Fast Five, I found myself wondering: Do the makers of HGH (human growth hormone) actually have stock in this movie? I’m not suggesting that both Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are on the juice—okay, maybe I am a little—but their bulging biceps (and necks and, uh, skulls) will at the very least inspire others to try the stuff. (Just say no, kids.) More importantly, the film itself seems to be on steroids. It’s a low IQ, high-octane, adrenalized speed ride. I kind of loved it.
Look, if you’re looking for character development, thoughtful dialogue, a sensical plot, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’re looking for fast cars, fast women, macho wise cracks, and “how on earth did they pull that off?” stunts, you simply can’t do any better.
Happily, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have now come to terms with the fact that the Fast franchise may very well be the apex of their careers and they seem okay with it. As federal-agent-turned-fugitive Brian O’Conner, Walker’s acting remains somewhere between laughably wooden and pleasingly deadpan (depending on how charitable you’re being), but he sure looks good behind the wheel of a car. Diesel, with his husky growl, gleaming pate, and bedroom eyes, is a cartoonishly larger-than-life cinematic alpha dog.
The film, unlike the first four of the series, plays more like a heist film—it’s Ocean’s Eleven, without the wit—as O’Conner and Toretto assemble a team to steal millions from a Brazilian kingpin (Joaquim de Almeida). Of course, there are still plenty of race scenes and daring highway escapes to go around.
There are amusing sidekicks, too, like the loquacious Roman (Tyrese Gibson), the nice-guy tech whiz Tej (Ludacris), and the squabbling hustlers Leo and Santos (Tego Calderon and Don Omar). There’s even a new romantic possibility for Diesel’s Toretto (if you recall, his girlfriend Letty died in the previous film)—Elsa Pataky’s Elena, a feisty border patrol cop with a tragic past.
But most people will have forked over their 10 bucks to see a kickass throwdown between The Rock, who plays Hobbs, a federal agent who always gets his man, and Diesel. And darned if we don’t get one—mano a mano, with lots of thuds, oomphs, crashes, and broken furniture. You’ll never guess who wins. (Actually, you will.)
Director Justin Lin is about constant gratification. His formula is give the audience exactly what it wants, at all times. Turns out, that formula is pretty darn effective.