Monday, 2 May 2011

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Fast Five [Review]


Opinion: B-

As a live-action film, it's implausible. As a street-racing film franchise that has always been revolving around polished cars and crazy speed, it takes a surprising turn into an interesting alley of heist. Try to see this as a live-action cartoon and you get a pretty good cinematic fare that gives you lots of great action and time (130 minutes) to indulge in your popcorns.


Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the explosive franchise built on speed in Fast Five. In this installment, former cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) partners with ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) on the opposite side of the law. Dwayne Johnson joins returning favorites Jordana Brewster, Chris Ludacris Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon and Don Omar for this ultimate high-stakes race.

Since Brian and Mia Toretto (Brewster) broke Dom out of custody, they've blown across many borders to elude authorities. Now backed into a corner in Rio de Janeiro, they must pull one last job in order to gain their freedom. As they assemble their elite team of top racers, the unlikely allies know their only shot of getting out for good means confronting the corrupt businessman who wants them dead. But he's not the only one on their tail.

Hard-nosed federal agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) never misses his target. When he is assigned to track down Dom and Brian, he and his strike team launch an all-out assault to capture them. But as his men tear through Brazil, Hobbs learns he can't separate the good guys from the bad. Now, he must rely on his instincts to corner his preybefore someone else runs them down first.


The emphasis on shiny cars and high performance specs has been tuned down to pave way for a course with more heart, that is, shifting the gear from the shafts to their drivers. Not that the drivers weren't a star feature in previous films, but they start to rely on their cars for less fancy fares and become serious achievers. They found themselves new ways to make money, away from the street-racing scene.

Heist.

The fifth venture steers clear of the boys' agenda and makes a sharp turn into the grown-up territories. Not only that, the matters get more personal as the film progresses and results in better development of the characters and the chemistry between them. This is especially so for Dom and Brian, which later played into an interesting tripartite with the new addition Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock) who plays Agent Hobbs.

Okay, maybe just Dom and Hobbs as it's a dream come true for the two action superstars to finally meet.

A great indication of the celebration of the above is seen in a particular scene where they wrestle each other for a good 5-10 minutes. This is a scene that itself alone more than justifies the ticket price, says the elated action fans. Well indeed, Vin Diesel wrestling Dwayne Johnson is easily far more satisfying than Michael Bay's Optimus Prime vs. Megatron.

In my opinion, that is.

Usually I'll tend to lament on how films always stereotype African-American actors to the role of the jokers, but this time I'll like to express that I'm glad they have Tyrese Gibson to tickle my funny bone. He's a funny man.

Justin Lin has been doing quite a few of the F&F franchise films (three to be exact) and he doesn't seem to be getting out of gas. Unlike Michael Bay, who is also a filmmaker who bangs lots of stuff together (metal or no metal), Justin Lin is able to show the audience what exactly is happening with better clarity of shots and editing. Even when Lin overdoes the bang-bang-booms, it's always performed under necessary circumstances in a satisfying manner.

Maybe Lin can make a better Transformers film (I hope the producers are reading this).

For an exploitation genre film like Fast Five, the camerawork is commendable. Especially during an opening sequence where Dom and Brian drive off a cliff's edge at an extreme height, I thought the camera caught the entire freefall moment well enough to induce a truly WTH breathtaking sensation within the audience. All I heard was a unified loud gasp by the audience and then silence over the entire span of their hangtime before they hit waters with a loud splash.

Car and body chases made an enjoyable ride as well, though they tend to leave behind a large trail of car wrecks and bodies. All these "gimmicky" action sequences are what make the whole franchise so popular and successful, allowing Universal a good cash cow to milk from for the time-being until they can find a star.

So in short, there's plenty to like about this streetracing-turned-heist franchise cartoon if you don't view it too seriously. Because it is not a series based on plausibility (when two cars can even drag a massive vault behind and speed off the roads as if it doesn't weigh tons) and for that, it delivers some good horsepower comparable to its original. I'm not a fan of such films, but I'll probably get myself a big bucket of popcorns and get over it.

It's more enjoyable that way.

(There is also an extra scene at the end of the credit roll, so do stay back for it.)


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