50. Fast Five (2011)

Fast Five or ‘How a movie with too much testosterone almost turned me into a man’

Quite fittingly… FIVE/10
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson

If a film franchise is able to reach a fifth instalment, and snag the biggest Australian opening weekend for Universal, it must be doing something right. But when the successful film in question is purely based on simple characters, testosterone driven action, predictable dialogue and lots of fast cars, money and women (all of equal value), there must be something wrong.

Oh ... well if The ROCK is in this movie - it must be good.

If you haven’t seen Fast and the Furious 1, 2, 3, or 4, rest assured you won’t feel left behind in this fifth clash of machines and muscles. Sure, fans of earlier instalments might have more familiarity with the returned characters and appreciate little nudges to what’s happened so far, but for first-timers such knowledge won’t bear too much weight on their understanding of a story that rests on the motivations of: escape the police and simultaneously steal lots of money from the bad guy – because we all know that drug money is better spent on securing happy futures for the good guys.

While there’s an undeniable appeal to movies that don’t require you to think too much (probably the reason behind Fast Five’s extensive distribution and money-raking), the film could have sped from average to awesome if it had taken full advantage of its location, potential humour, and face-value characters – aspects that most films of this commercial calibre thrive on.

Set in Rio, Fast Five chooses a great location of labyrinth-like streets where visually interesting details of cultural difference could open up cleverly driven chases. But as the comic relief of the film seems to lazily stem off racial stereotypes, and action turns the streets into a place where crime and law are far too conveniently flexible, Fast Five seems to think that sweeping overhead shots of the city will suffice. This lack of attention to the location may also be the reason for Fast Five’s neglect of the bad guy and the female characters. In the good old tradition of sexism, Fast Five uses all its female characters as tools for easy-fixes – the central female character’s pregnancy (NOT a spoiler: she boots in the first five minutes of the film) even being used as an excuse to propel familial sentimentality amongst the men. And of lesser importance, is the bad guy who could have been replaced entirely by a spanner.

Despite its attempt in integrating a heist genre into its story (taking a retarded resemblance to Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job), Fast Five disappoints in areas it should have capitalized on. While no one is expecting a radically feminist and thought-provoking take on high-speed chases, Fast Five emphasizes the potential it never reached.

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