Written by James Rawson, New Media, DFI
Film: Fast Five
Director: Justin Lin
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
I was first introduced to ‘The Fast and the Furious’, believe it or not, while at a Turkish shisha club in the summer of 2008. Myself and dozens of others were utterly perplexed as the revving of engines filled the room, and a giant screen lowered to play the film’s final action scene. We watched at first in confusion, and then in awe, as Vin Diesel and Paul Walker got behind the wheel for one last vengeance race which, incidentally, crosses a train track. And would you believe it? There’s a train coming. The whole place was in complete silence, hooked to the screen, waiting to see what would happen next. My best friend turned to me afterwards and said: “Even though I didn’t know what was happening in the film, I could feel my heart beating faster”. It was immediate, visceral filmmaking at its best: camerawork that puts you right there in the action, stunts that felt real (ie without CGI) and editing that manipulates your feeling of time and space to suspense filled perfection. Bliss.
I’ll put my hands up and admit that I didn’t see any of the three sequels, but I do have a genuine affection for the first film: the characters and dialogue were no brain action fluff, and the on-screen talent was likeable enough to pass the time between chase scenes and heists. All in all, it made for a pretty enjoyable ride.
‘Fast Five’, the fourth sequel in the series, sees ex-cop turned criminal Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and car thief Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) go down to Rio to pull one last job against a Brazilian drug lord and make off with 100 million cool ones. Breathing down their backs is US Fed Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), who has them at the top of his hit list after a jail break and train robbery that saw one of his colleagues get killed.
While the rest of Hollywood is toying with the possibilities of 3D, it’s refreshing to see some good old fashioned car chases and runaway train sequences, all of which are brilliantly executed by director Justin Lin. Again, the reliance on CGI is minimal, so somehow even the most ridiculous stunts feel more credible. The crew assembled for the job are thrown together from the previous films, with a few new additions, and provide the right amount of laughs and throwaway subplots to keep the engine chugging along. Seeing ‘The Rock’ face off against Vin Diesel is a huge guilty pleasure, and worth the entrance money alone.
My one problem with ‘Fast Five’, as much as I enjoyed it, was the body count. In the first film I only remember one fatality, and he was a key character whose death was a necessary and poignant plot point. We could cheer for Vin and co because, even though they were operating on the wrong side of the law, their hearts were basically in the right place. In ‘Fast Five’, they shoot or run over at least 50 Brazilian policemen, with a seemingly complete disregard for human life. Our heroes seem to have gone from plucky racers fighting the cops to murderous criminals. Next time, let’s have it a bit more fast, and a bit less furious please.