With Fast & Furious 5 (or to use its original, cooler title, Fast Five), the Fast and the Furious franchise makes the leap from guilty pleasure to straight-up, unabashed pleasure.
Of course, this hotted-up tale of buff dudes, shapely babes, standoffs, showdowns, gunfights, fistfights and – let’s not forget – car chases isn’t going to be for everyone.
But in the last few fast, furious flicks, those involved seem to have struck a crowd-pleasing balance of fast-paced, hard-hitting action and good-natured ridiculousness.
And that reaches an apex in Fast Five, which takes the series in a fun new direction, transforming it from a street-racing saga to a high-octane Ocean’s Eleven.
The action picks up where the previous instalment left off, with the prison-bound Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) busted loose by ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).
High-tailing it to Rio de Janeiro, the crims pull a risky heist that involves stealing sports cars from a moving train. Gosh, how could that possibly go wrong?
When Dom, Brian and Mia are double-crossed by their partners, resulting in the deaths of a few DEA agents, they end up pursued by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a hard-core lawman with an “Old Testament” moral code and the physique of a minotaur.
Realising the only way out is to get enough cash to make themselves scarce for good, the crew decides to rob Reyes (Joaquin de Almeida), the crime boss behind the double-cross, of his ill-gotten $100 million fortune.
But even the likes of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker can’t do something like this alone, so they assemble a team made up of cast members from the previous Fast and the Furious films – Matt Schulze from the first, Tyrese Gibson from the second, Sung Kang from the third and Gal Gadot from the fourth.
While Fast Five seems intent on refashioning the franchise as the adventures of a groovy gang of thieves, the movie hasn’t forgotten why the punters show up for these movies.
And director Justin Lin (who helmed the previous two Fast and the Furious movies) keeps things…well, fast and furious, whether the chases are on foot through Rio’s shantytowns or in high-end cars on the city’s highways.
Of course, the drama, dialogue and characterisation is all big, broad and larger than life but it’s done with a winning combination of just enough sincerity and just enough understanding of its own outlandishness.
I mean, this is a movie where musclebound bruisers Diesel and Johnson get into a no-holds-barred brawl that sees them literally smashing through walls. You definitely can’t accuse Fast Five of not giving the fans what they want.