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Thursday, May 5, 2011 03:56 pm

Pedal to the floor for action in Fast Five

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Paul Walker stars as Brian O'Conner and Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto in Fast Five.

Either I had a mini stroke while watching Justin Lin’s Fast Five or the films in this lucrative series for gearheads are getting better and better. I’ll be damned if I don’t think it’s the latter as this fifth installment left me smiling and a bit giddy at the sheer audacity and ridiculousness Lin and his crew were willing to attempt. Not only did they have to top the previous four Furious films but they had the daunting task of making car chases exciting again. Well, Lin can consider that mission accomplished. Five contains some of the most exciting, real (read: no CGI!) action sequences to appear on screen in the last decade. The result is a high-octane kick in the pants that serves as a reminder that imagination, good stunt work and tight editing can deliver old-fashioned movie thrills that computers can’t.

When last we left the franchise’s buff anti-hero Dom (Vin Diesel), he was on his way to the pokey for the next 20 years. Well, that problem’s solved within the first 10 minutes when his sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster) and her husband, ex-FBI agent Brian (Paul Walker), stage a jailbreak from a prison bus that by rights should leave all inside dead. That all 26 inmates live to tell the tale is the least ridiculous element in the film. It jumps to find these three in Rio de Janeiro trying to lay low. But soon they are wrapped up in a car heist scheme gone wrong that draws the attention of the local crime boss, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Soon, not only are his men on our heroes’ trail, but FBI agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew are in pursuit to return them to the states for crimes they committed there.

The plot’s immaterial and serves as nothing but a clothesline on which to hang the film’s four spectacular action set pieces. A foot chase on the rooftops of the Rio slums and a bloody ambush would be the highlights in other films. However, as exciting as they are, they pale in comparison to the movie’s opening car heist from a moving train and the finale featuring two muscle cars dragging a 10-ton safe through the streets, causing irresponsible mayhem and destruction in the best action film tradition. Is all of this silly as hell? Of course! Does it prove to be thrilling great fun? You bet. It’s Lin’s willingness to defy, with a wink towards the audience, all the laws of physics that makes Fast Five a winner.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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