Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: if you like Fast/Furious movies (if you enjoy fastness and furiosity, say), you’re probably going to like this one. It’s “better” than the first one, from what I remember, insomuch as much as the stunts are “bigger”, the cars faster, the girls sluttier and more abundant, the muscle men shoutier and sweatier, the crass materialism more celebratory. The other key difference is that Fast Five is a blatant, bonehead ripoff of Ocean’s 11, whereas The Fast and the Furious was a blatant, bonehead ripoff of Point Break, for whatever that‘s worth. Rest assured that it’s exactly what it looks like, so if you think it looks awesome, it probably will be.
I don’t mean to insult the people who like Fastness and Furiosity. Really, I like lots of dumb, preposterous stuff. Commando, for instance. There’s nothing wrong with liking dumb stuff. Making a beast of oneself gets rid of the pain of being a man and all of that. It’s just that, as a non-fan, I feel compelled to attempt to articulate the non-fan argument.
It would be silly to criticize Fast/Furious on the grounds on unbelievability, because Fast/Furious never makes any pretense of believability. In fact, it wears its utter preposterousness like a badge on its chest, or elaborate ground effects on its car . The very first scene is a high-speed jailbreak conducted in the desert, where a prison bus is taking Dom (portrayed by SIR VIN TWIN CAMS TURBO-DIESEL) to prison. Could the gang stop this bus? Throw down some spike strips? Kidnap the driver? Well, they could, but that wouldn’t be the living-your-life-a-quarter-mile-at-a-time way, now would it. NEEDS MOAR XXXTREEME!
“Dude. I have a plan.”
“Uh, does it involve cars? And does it hinge on being really good at driving cars? Because otherwise, NOT INTERESTED.”
So, the way they spring Dom from his jail bus is, his sister Mia speeds in front of the bus in her little 3,000-pound Acura NSX or whatever, spins around to face the bus head on, and plays chicken with it. Naturally, seeing this, the bus driver veers off course to prevent a collision with this tiny sports car that the bus would tear through like a flaming spear through wet paper, only to FALL RIGHT INTO THEIR TRAP! That brilliant trap being, now the bus is on a collision course with the back of Dom’s magic Dodge Charger, which Paul Walker has parked directly in the bus’s path. The bus hits the back of this Dodge, and does what any bus rear-ending another car would do: fly off of it and shoot into the air as if it was a motorcross half-pipe and flip in sideways circles like a barrel roll A THOUSAND AND ONE TIMES! OOOOOH WHA-AH AH-AH! Vin Diesel (who was inside the flipping bus) and Paul Walker (who was driving the Dodge that got rear-ended by a full prison bus going 80 mph), obviously walk away unscathed.
Now, there are a thousand ridiculous aspects to this scene (why would the bus driver swerve out of control to miss a tiny sports car? how did they know the bus would then swerve towards their other car? how did they know Vin Diesel would survive the ridiculously violent bus crash they just caused?). To only scratch the surface, why couldn’t they just have had a ramp that dropped down from the back of the Dodge Charger? That would’ve taken five extra seconds of writing time, and made the scene a good thirty percent more believable. But as I said, believability is beside the point. Which is further confirmed in the very next scene, in which Professor Nos Turbo Diesel and Paul Drywall-ker M.D. BASE jump off a thousand foot cliff from a car going 100, with no parachutes, and land with a pillowy splash into a conveniently-located lake.
I could write 6,000 words on all the reasons the story doesn’t make any sense, but I doubt there’s much of a counter-argument. Fast/Furious is essentially pro wrestling with cars. I don’t like pro wrestling. But I doubt a significant percentage of the people who do truly believe it’s real. It’s less about whether you believe than it is about what you get out of it in exchange for accepting its total unbelievability. I accept Commando because the unbelievability is part of the charm. NOW HE’S FEEDING A DEER! NOW HE’S CHOPPING OFF ARMS! NOW HE’S SAYING SOMETHING COOL! I’m not inside the story, feeling what the characters feel, I just think it would be cool to be a huge buff guy who chops off peoples’ arms then tells a finely-crafted joke about it only seconds later.
So why don’t I feel the same way about 5 Fast 5 Furious? Mostly because the characters seem stupid. They’re obsessed with money and shiny things above all else and they think lines like, “This just went from Mission Impossible, to Mission In-Freakin’-Sanity!” are über clever. “Impossible” and “Insane” don’t differ enough from each other, and that’s an idiotic line. Keep in mind, by the way, that Tyrese Gibson, who delivers said line, plays a character who’s supposed to be the guy with the gift of gab, the one “who can talk his way in and out of anywhere.” Let’s be clear: “mission in-freaking-sanity” truly was intended to be a super-witty line by whoever wrote it. Intention is everything here, and all signs point to it being intended as something to be celebrated for its folksy aptness, not ridiculed as bro-y, nonsensical gibberish for dipsh*ts.
Likewise, the hardened, military weapons expert who just so happens to look like a 20-year-old supermodel holds her pistol sideways during a stick up. It may seem arbitrary, but I’ll accept that the military weapons expert looks like a 20-year-old supermodel, but not that a South American military weapons expert would hold her pistol sideways a lá Larenz Tate in Menace II Society (YOU TALKIN’ BOUT MY MOMMA? BLAM! BLAM!). Why? Because while they’re both ridiculous, I can understand that supermodels are nice to look at, whereas holding your gun sideways is a weird-dumb, wannabe gangster fantasy. Ditto the part where Vin Diesel risks his life to break into a cop’s house (a cartoonishly attractive lady cop, I might add) in order to retrieve his shiny necklace. She doesn’t arrest him, however, because it turns out “they’ve both lost someone close to them.” Puke.
My favorite part of this movie was Vin Diesel and The Rock going nose to nose (with The Rock literally dripping sweat and Vin Diesel bone dry) trading gruff threats, the subtext of which seemed to be “I DARE YOU TO KISS ME!” “YEAH? WELL I DARE YOU TO KISS ME!”
Even if you hate wrestling as much as I do, it’s hard to deny The Rock’s charisma. The rest of the movie? Feh. I accept that Fast Five is wish-fulfillment. I just think it’s idiot wish-fulfillment. Still, probably more ridiculous than its predecessors, so that’s something.