Genre Grandeur: How does Fast Five hold up five years later?
This post is originally written for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur on Heist Movies. For all the reviews in this feature, check out Movie Rob’s site.
Fast Five is the very first film in The Fast and The Furious franchise I ever watched. I’m not a snobby movie watcher. I love superhero films and summer blockbusters like a lot of other people. But I overlooked this franchise thinking it would be a hollow, soul less action flick. Okay, this franchise is never going to win an Oscar for best picture. It is a fun, testosterone fueled ride and I can see why it’s one of the biggest, most popular action movie franchises around.
The fifth installment surprisingly makes for a good entry point into the franchise for me. It’s arguably the best in the franchise to date. The action sequences are exciting and well directed. There’s enough character beats to give the story some heart. With so much going on and so many characters, this could have been a hot mess. Director Justin Lin has a firm hand on the steering wheel, never letting the story go off track. He’s also got a strong eye for the visuals, knowing how to frame scenes for maximum suspense and bringing an energetic flair to daring, insane stunts.
Fast Five can be enjoyed as singular standalone film, yet I liked how it also felt like part of a bigger, on-going story. Through dialogue and character interactions, there are events that happened in the past that I could pick up on. Although I didn’t know exactly their backstory, I was intrigued that there was something more to be discovered when I go back to watch the earlier films. One of the better examples of this is the brotherly rivalry between Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). It’s evident at one point they must have butted heads often. Although they have now bonded, there’s still this need to out do each other, to compete and show who’s best, just like real brothers.
Making his debut in the franchise is Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock as Hobbs. What’s great about The Rock is that he has the physicality and larger than life on-screen presence to go up against Vin Diesel. I also like is that while Hobbs is sort of an antagonist at certain points, he’s not the villain. The dynamic between Hobbes and Dom has some similarities to the first film where Brian’s job is to uphold the law, but eventually realizes that Dom isn’t the “bad guy”.
The basic plot that the action set pieces are built around is Dom’s crew doing one last job: a heist to steal loads of money from a crime lord. Sure, the familiar story beats of a heist are there. A super intricate plan is set in motion but at the last second the poop hits the fan. This is actually my favorite kind of heist when as a viewer you are led to think one thing is going to happen, then the heroes’ backs are up against the wall and must fly by the seat of their pants to pull off the impossible. The heist also gives Fast Five a fresher angle than another street car racing story and the framework allows each of the supporting characters a moment to shine.
There’s a time and a place for cerebral, thought-provoking movies. Then there are The Fast and The Furious films when you want to set your brain on cruise control, kick back and have a blast. Fast Five stays true to the flashy speed racing cars while taking the franchise to new heights on a much bigger scale. As bold as some of the actions sequences are, they are actually not that over-the-top compared to the later films like Furious 7. How much fuel is left in the tank for this franchise is hard to say. One things for sure, Fast Five is a super solid, high octane action film that’s worth watching.