Movie Review: Fast Five (2011)
There was a time when cultural conservatives feared the gender neutral. They worried men were becoming like women and women like men.
Let them come see “Fast Five.”
Seriously. Each gender has become a parody of itself. The women are preposterously beautiful, the men preposterously pumped. I’m sure Paul Walker, who plays Brian O’Conner, is a fairly buff dude, but next to Vin Diesel, who plays laconic car thief Dominic Toretto, he looks like me. And Diesel next to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays Special Agent Hobbs, looks like me again. Can the Rock even put his arms down these days? In her review, Manohla Dargis brings up the homoerotic undertones of a fight between Diesel and Johnson but I’d go further. The two men, both bald, rigid and tumescent, reminded me of nothing so much as two erect penises fighting. Someone even makes a reference to a “cock fight.” Freud isn’t even needed anymore.
This is the fifth installment of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise (hence “Fast Five”), the fourth chronologically (it takes place before “Tokyo Drift”), but it’s my first go so I was hopelessly lost.
Apparently at the end of the last movie Dominic was arrested, but at the beginning of this one, as the bus full of prisoners rides that lonely road to the penitentiary, three sports car zoom up, veer around, and force the bus to flip ten times. “Amazingly,” a news reporter says, “there were no fatalities.” Yes, amazingly. One minute into the movie Dominic escapes.
To Brazil, with former rival O’Conner and sister Mia, who’s O’Conner’s girl. There they run into a dude from the first movie, Vince (Matt Schulze — on the buffness scale between Walker and Diesel), who tells them about a job they can do, “a sure thing,” “easy money,” etc. It involves driving a flat-bed truck at high speeds over uneven ground next to a speeding train, using a propane torch to cut a hole into one of the train cars, and driving out the racing cars within. Easy peasy. Becomes more complicated when one of the locals insists on driving the GT40 but Diesel says “Ladies first” and Mia gets it. That’s the moment on which the rest of the movie hinges. Turns out the GT40 hides a computer chip that contains all the drug deals, $100 million worth, of local slumlord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Apparently Reyes is the guy behind this “sure thing.” He wants to retrieve his chip. What’s it doing there in the first place, on this sports car on a train speeding through Brazil to who knows where? Why are you asking, Brainiac? Lookit Dom drive that car off that train. Kick ass! Lookit Brian hang by one arm from what’s left of the flat bed. Kick ass! Lookit both Dom and Brian fly off the edge of that cliff and crash into the water 200 feet below. Kick—
Actually that last stunt is pretty cool. Time slows, the sound cuts except for the wind, Dom and Brian begin to back out of the car flying through space.
Of course they’d be dead after the crash. They’d be dead 10 times in this movie. Instead they pop up after a few seconds, make a few manly quips, look around to see the bad guys pointing guns at their heads. We’re off and running again. Superheroes are more vulnerable than these guys.
Parts of it aren’t bad, actually. Justin Lin knows how to direct an action sequence, and the script by Chris Morgan shows some wit. So there’s $10 million in drug money in 10 different locations. Do they rob each one? BO-ring! Instead they bust into one drugspot and burn the money. This forces Reyes to gather all his money into one safe location. Unfortunately that safe location is a police station.
By this point, Dom has gathered his team of experts. That’s one of my favorite cinematic devices, actually, gathering a team of experts, but like everything else here it’s done quick and sloppy. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) is supposed to be the fast talker, for example, but he’s hardly Chris Tucker, and Tej (Ludacris), the safecracker, constantly one-ups him. Gisele (Gal Gadot) is supposed to be the utilities and weapons specialist, but she’s a hottie, Miss Israel 2004, and her most memorable moment is getting Reyes’ palm print, needed to crack the safe, on her ass. Good work, girl. Meanwhile, poor Han (Sung Kang), is supposed to be “the chameleon.” He supposed to blend in with the crowd. Really? In Rio? And how is that a talent? Saddest talent in the world. Might as well hire Joe Lieberman for the role.
In this manner feints are made in the direction of better movies, then botched or ignored for the next fast thing. Relationships are suggested in a glance. Oh, I bet Gisele and Han get together. (They do.) Oh, I bet Dom gets together with that police chick. (He does.) Meanwhile, the Rock plays the Tommy Lee Jones/Ed Lauter role: the cop hellbent on catching the heroes who winds up aligning himself with the heroes. It's a parody of an action movie. Of course the name of one of the production companies responsible for this thing? “Original Film.” There’s no irony in Hollywood.
It goes zoom-zoom but a sadness permeates “Fast Five.” There’s such need here. We need speed, we need beautiful ass, we need arms the size of tree trunks. You can calculate how small and slow and alone we feel by how big, fast and macho everything is on screen.