After 10 years, it is no surprise that the film series which has perfected the “cartosterone” sub-genre of action flick is back for a celebratory fifth instalment, but in honour of its love of number-play, here are Five Things that did surprise me about Fast Five.
- Casting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the nemesis was a bit surprising. The fact that Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, plus Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon, and Don Omar (the last seven of which you may not recognize as alumni of the Fast/Furious Franchise) are all back is probably no huge surprise. After all, what else are they working on? But I thought The Rock was going for a more mellow image. I just reviewed his family adventure Journey 2! Despite his physical dominance over the entire cast, he still seems like a bad fit for Special Agent Hobbs, who is supposed to be some manhunter of biblical ferocity coming after Diesel and Walker. He can’t have it both ways and he’s not very convincing here (though another surprise is how he’s received critical praise for his performance. Really?).
- I don’t know if it’s surprising or weird, but I’m not sure why director Justin Lin (who knows a thing or two about these movies, having directed the last three) decided to create “mirror” teams. First there’s Diesel vs The Rock — that’s two bald, brute team leaders (for some reason they decided to shave The Rock’s head so he looks even more like Diesel. A scene where the two of them are beating each other up actually made me dizzy). Each team also has a bald black guy (Tyrese plays for Team Diesel); a sexy Latin/Spanish super-model type (The Rock picks the hot cop for his team because of her incorruptibility. Right, Dwayne, whatever you say!); and an Asian guy (represent!). I don’t think there was any special reason for this symmetry, but it was kind of distracting.
- On the plus side, they set the majority of the movie in Rio and I was impressed that they used subtitles for about 15-25% of the movie. Typically these kinds of mindless action flicks don’t cater to the foreign film crowd, so for the audience’s sake they might choose to use English dialogue even if that’s less authentic than Portuguese. Of course, I have no idea how much the actors might have mangled the language, but I give them credit for trying.
- In that same vein of literateness, I was also surprised at how strongly this movie echoes Robin Hood. After Walker breaks Diesel out of prisoner transport, Diesel, Walker, and gang rob a train (those sound like story elements that parallel Robin Hood right?). On top of that, their big plan in Rio is a huge heist to steal all the money from the local criminal kingpin who apparently “owns” Rio (he stores his money at Police Headquarters). So here’s Diesel and his band of roguish merry men (they have fun committing crime) who plan to steal from the rich and corrupt establishment, and give to the poor(?). Well, actually they’re giving to themselves, but it’s blood money anyway. Plus, Walker and Brewster are expecting so that’s OK, right? Beleaguered comparisons aside, this just has that Robin Hood kind of feel.
- Last surprise is more of a disappointment: After spending days or weeks (about an hour of screen time) prepping and planning, the merry men realize that Prince John is onto them and he’s tripled his guard. So, they decide to throw out their original plan in exchange for some completely preposterous (but actually quite thrilling) car chase that tears up the streets of Rio. Why would any director spend so much time setting up a heist only to swap it out. I realize that no one really cares, but it was such a waste of time. I also realize that if we really wanted to watch a heist film, we would have rented Ocean’s 11 or something. People come to Fast Five to see cocky criminals driving cars recklessly fast.
- Bonus surprise is the post-credit epilogue. Did you think they were running on fumes after five movies? Think again. The $600-million-plus box office makes it not a surprise that the epilogue clearly sets up the sixth movie (which I believe is currently in pre-production, with many of the cast returning — including The Rock.)
I don’t know if I’m down for another movie, but I think I’ll let the cleverness of the title decide for me. (4 out of 5)