Although it is common to see the content of books, plays and television programs make the leap to the big screen, the translation of magazine articles to cinema occurs with less frequency. Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront provided one of the earliest examples of the phenomenon, with fellow classics Dog Day Afternoon, Urban Cowboy and Saturday Night Fever following the same trend. In the past thirty years a selection of other features have originated from reportage, including obvious (The Killing Fields, The Insider and Proof Of Life) and more obscure (Coyote Ugly, Blue Crush and Die Hard 4.0) culprits. Amongst an assortment of films that includes Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Almost Famous and Shattered Glass sits The Fast And The Furious series, with the original installment inspired by a piece entitled “Racer X”, as seen in the Vibe publication. Over a spate of sequels spanning ten years, the street racing franchise has continued to bloom from its humble printed origins. Hence we now have Fast And Furious 5 (known as Fast Five in the rest of the word), the latest continuation of the high-octane story.
Reunited after a daring daylight prison break, ex-con Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Babylon A.D), his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!) and ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Flags Of Our Fathers) are fugitives from the law. Hiding out in Rio De Janeiro, they take a job to help out old pal Vince, (Matt Schulze, Extract), however things take a turn for the worse when the henchmen of city kingpin Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida, The Death And Life Of Bobby Z) spring a change of plans on them at the last moment. When the fallout of the failed mission brings hard-nosed U.S. federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Faster) down south, the trio are forced to think big to secure their freedom. With Reyes’ men and Hobbs’ strike team on their trail, Dom, Brian and Mia assemble a crew of familiar faces – including Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Legion), Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, No Strings Attached), Han (Sung Kang, Ninja Assassin), Gisele (Gal Gadot, Knight And Day), Leo (Tego Calderon, Illegal Tender) and Santos (Don Omar, best known for his musical talents) – to pull off one last heist.
Franchises that reach their fifth installment are clearly doing something right with audiences, with a cumulative worldwide gross of just under $1 billion at the box office. Viewers new to the series may be a little spun about at the start of the film, as we catch the returning cast members right in the middle of the action. This soon becomes completely irrelevant, as the only information is that these people are running from one place to the next, and that journey necessarily involves mass vehicular destruction. Indeed, the opening caper – which sees cars being driven off a moving train – sets the tone up for the film. This extended exposition quickly segues into an old-school heist film, the kind that requires the assembly of an eclectic group of thieves and scoundrels that tick all the right boxes in its knowledge of action movie archetype. Does it make sense? Of course not, but this doesn’t really matter. The almost review-proof film is flipping a middle finger to critics, daring them to drive a large truck through the massive plot holes and point out the laughably bad dialogue. It’s as if Fast and Furious 5 is aware of all of this, and is saying “You know what? Whatevs. We’ve got Diesel. And The Rock”.
If audience reaction is anything to go by, Fast and Furious 5 may be the comedy sensation of the year. Some of this is at the unintentional laughs that the spectacularly batty action offers, not to mention those elicited from the derivative and unconvincing plot turns. Yet most of the reaction is celebratory: Justin Lin knows what the target audience wants and provides it in spades. Fast cars, big guns and even faster women, it is the kind of film that would be right at home in the exploitation genre in the 1970s. In fact, if we were to put Fast and Furious 5 up on bricks in our workshop, and take it apart piece by piece, we’d find that it is fundamentally of the same build and make that constitutes Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Where Rodriguez was parodying the genre, the appeal of Lin’s film is that it is unabashedly proud of its bottom-feeder heritage. The Rock remains inexplicably moist throughout much of the film, even when other characters appear to be dry, although this shouldn’t come as a surprise to a film that has thrown caution to the wind in the logic stakes. Capping it all off with one of the most spectacularly destructive car chases since The Blues Brothers, there is something akin to pure joy in watching seasoned vets Diesel, Walker and Johnson mix it up in a whole new backdrop. This is movie-making without restraints, and the best advice we can give is to just go with it.
The Reel Bits: It may be the result of a mass brain-storming session after a Top Gear marathon, but Fast and Furious 5 is unapologetic in the joy it derives from piling as many cars, scantily-clad actors of both genders and guns into one two-hour carnival of explosions and fast-driving. This does everything is promises in the driver’s manual, before tossing it out the window and turning the whole thing up to 11.
Fast And Furious 5 is released on April 20, 2011 in Australia by Universal.