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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Fast Cars, Dumb Plot:

Fast Five
Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

BRAUN BUT NO BRAIN: Paul Walker and Vin Diesel start in ‘Fast Five’ a film easy on the eyes but not the intellect.

stars
It’s difficult to describe the success of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. How can I boil down five films into just one or two words? The symphony of man mastering machine, the adrenaline surge that comes from being above the law, conquering the fear of death, defying the odds and the spoils that come with it?! I doubt even the most studied literary masters would be hard-pressed to … oh, wait! I got it: “car boner!”

“The Fast and the Furious” films have always been ridiculous romps that often end up being entertaining in spite of utterly incomprehensible plots and a monochromatic style of acting that would make Sir Laurence Olivier spin in his grave. What salvages “The Fast and the Furious” is its relentless pursuit to deliver kinetic thrills. There’s something to be said for a movie that abandons logic and reason for purely visceral reaction. Usually, that “something to be said” is, “Dear, God! Why?”

I’ve found myself generally forgiving of such filth because of its lack of pretentiousness. “Fast Five” is easily the best of the series because not only does it lack pretension, it goes out of its way to track it down and piss all over it. This is a fantastic piece of action cinema, but it’s stupid. No, no, no! Stupid doesn’t do it justice. Nor does moronic, idiotic or brainless. I feel as if I need to search for a word to convey the kind of hollowed-out, cerebellum that crafted the story for “Fast Five.” Let’s go with plebeian.

It sounds like I’m being critical of the logic-less world our heroes inhabit. In fact, the relentless commitment to entertain and complete abandonment of reason are what makes “Fast Five” far better than any traditional idiotic action film. This time around daredevil and criminal Dom (Vin Diesel) and his heterosexual life partner Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) are on the lam, trying to steal to survive in South America. They are being pursued by Dobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a testosterone-fueled FBI agent who is willing to destroy most of Rio de Janeiro to bring them to justice.

“Fast Five” borrows a lot from “Oceans 11.” They have turned the traditional car-race film into a car-race heist hybrid, where Dom and Brian have to assemble a team of drivers to pull off a $100 million vault job. This is a wonderful excuse to bring back every secondary character from the previous four “The Fast and the Furious” films. I wondered: How are a half dozen race car drivers going to steal a vault housed in a police station? Well, my friend: Because they drive real damn fast.

I liked the film. The three-star review will attest to that. It’s a fun, energetic and amusing movie with a number of mind-blowing car-chase scenes. But I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a few more minutes on the kind of insane reality these characters live in.

While putting together their “Danny Ocean”-style plot for robbing a local drug lord, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), they decide to rob him so that in an act of desperation he’ll compile all his filthy lucre into one place. During the robbery, Dom takes off his ski mask and tells Reyes’ henchman that he wants his boss to know who robbed him. This makes sense because Dom and Reyes have a history. Dom is sending a signal. Then, everyone else proceeds to take off their masks, exposing their identities before burning a big pile of money and departing.

I understand why a couple of the characters would do this. But why would hired help go along with it—especially if they had no personal stake in the plan and the crazy gun-toting drug cartel had no idea who they were. So, I ask: Why remove the mask? The revelation is meaningless, aside from giving away an identity to a bunch of scumbags who can now shoot assuredly to kill.

A bit of insanity continues as Reyes’ henchman returns to his office to tell him about the robbery. He fills Reyes in on the details before Reyes takes a knick-knack from his desk and beats the Henchman to death.

I wanted to scream, “Wait … what? Why are you killing the guy who can basically pick out every guy on Dom’s crew? The guy hadn’t quite outlived his usefulness just yet!”

More “what the what?” moments exist throughout the film—especially in the last 20 minutes, when physics and common sense are abandoned for one of the most awesomely unrealistic car chases ever filmed. Who knew a souped-up muscle car can not only tow a bank vault but hurl it like a weapon at enemy vehicles? Who knew someone could jump from a moving car doing 100 miles an hour and survive with little more than a couple of cuts and bruises?

Logic be damned! “Fast Five” is still enjoyable. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are still a lazy pairing; each have such a limited range. Director Justin Lin is smart enough to stock the pond with enough personalities to keep the camera from having to focus on any one performer for more than a couple of minutes. Dwayne Johnson is a nice addition to the franchise. The one thing the films have been lacking is this kind of menacing presence. A bald “Ying” to Vin Diesel’s bald “Yang.” Dumb has rarely been this much fun.

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