Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Fast Five

Title: Fast Five

Quién Es Más Macho: Vin Diesel O Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson? Diesel looks (and sounds) like he feasts on the bones of fallen foes, but there's more testosterone in the Rock's goatee than in the testicles of 100 lesser men.

Rating Using Random Objects Related To The Film: Two biceps out of five.

Tagline: "Feel the speed. Feel the rush."

Better Tagline: "Brought to you by Schmitts Gay."

Brief Plot Synopsis: Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), and Dom's sister/Brian's girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) have fled to Brazil (Brian and Mia having "released Dom on his own recognizance" after the latter was sentenced to 25-to-life for hijacking and serial glowering). There, the three plan one last big heist that will enable them to move somewhere without extradition and buy plenty of ShamWows to mop the sweat off their glistening bodies.

Is It As Bad As It Looks? Judging the Fast and the Furious movies by conventional means is an empty gesture. As a franchise, they seem to exist outside the spectrum of what we commonly refer to as "good" or "bad." They simply are, and given the successful formula producer Neal H. Moritz and crew have come up with, they can propogate themselves endlessly, like coral.

Well. except for Tokyo Drift. That just sucked.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Freeing Dom from the prison bus bound for Lompoc pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin of Brian's FBI career. They split up on the way to Rio de Janeiro, where Brian and Mia hook back up with Vince (Matt Schulze), part of Dom's crew from the first movie. He convinces them to join him in hijacking a train with sports cars in it, a caper that so defies the physical laws of the universe it should take place in a Philip K. Dick story. Dom shows up, the heist goes wrong (the cars were seized by the DEA and several agents end up killed), putting them in the doghouse of corrupt Rio businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, portraying the same evil Hispanic he played in Clear and Present Danger and Desperado), who wanted one of the seized cars because it contained a microchip that just happened to contain the location of all his ill-gotten money. Then a Diplomatic Security Service team led by Luke Hobbs (Johnson) shows up to nab Dom, who's planning to rip off Reyes with the help of just about every living person who's appeared in any of the previous films. Fisticuffs and reckless driving ensue.

"Critical" Analysis: There's a point in Ghostbusters when Ray (Dan Aykroyd) is trying to explain to Peter (Bill Murray) why Dana's apartment building is the focal point for all the paranormal activity in New York City, to which Peter replies, "Ray, pretend for a moment that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on."

This is relevant to our interests, because in order to understand Fast Five, or indeed any of the Fast and Furious movies, one must similarly forget all they know about aerodynamics, physics, law enforcement protocols, human anatomy, and architecture.

But my criticism of Fast Five has little to do with the ludicrous action sequences. I'm also not that hung up on the soporific performances of (most) the lead actors, or even the barely concealed homoeroticism which better writers than me are sure to cover in exhaustive, chest-heaving detail. No, the biggest problem with this latest movie is how boring it is.

Aside from the aforementioned train job (which takes place in the first 15-20 minutes of the movie) and the final heist, there's almost no action. This might be acceptable if director Justin Lin had honed things down to a tighter running time, but the frigging movie is two hours and ten minutes long. Not to deride the franchise's rich narrative history, but did this thing really need to be the same length as Conan the Barbarian? Longtime fans will probably appreciate the reappearances of Rome and Tej (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris 2 Fast 2 Furious), Gisele, Tego and Rico (Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Fast and Furious), and Han (Sung Kang, the last three movies), but there's nothing "furious" about slotting in a budding romance between Han and Gisele, and there's not much "fast" in the A-Team style antics the crew gets up to trying to set up the final heist.

I won't deny that some of the banter is amusing (the chemistry between fellow Puerto Rican singers Calderon and Omar works well) or that I like seeing big, sweaty mens beat the crap out of each other, but these movies aren't epics. If Lin intends to keep making these - and rest assured there will be more, stick around for the post-credits sequence - they need to be as lean as Paul Walker's acting skills.

Yes, I went there. I have to. Walker remains a cipher to me because I can't tell if O'Conner's inability to express emotion outside of when he's driving is a telling glimpse into a complex psyche or just Walker unable to contain his idiotic enthusiasm when behind the wheel of an awesome car. Diesel is a little better, but as we saw in the last movie, Dom is nigh immortal. He even goes toe-to-toe with the goddamned Rock in a fight sequence rendered all the more confusing by the preponderance of bald heads and tumescent biceps.

Though to give the Rock credit, he's the only one who appears to be enjoying himself. It must be nice to say "fuck" onscreen after Race to Witch Mountain and The Tooth Fairy.

Some things, like the tides and the enduring appeal of barbed wire tattoos, are eternal. Add the Fast and the Furious movies to that list. Any reviews written by the hand of Man are superfluous.

Fast Five is in theaters today. See it with your bros.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar