In part one of this proposed threequel to the wildly popular Fast ‘n’ Furious franchise, you got Capt. Marvel, Groot, Aquaman, Black Adam, Ratcatcher, Peacemaker, Wonder Woman, and Hespera. Wow! Talk about your superhero line-up!!
We begin with a brief callback to the wacky adventures of 2011’s Fast Five (see review below) with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) stealing that giant safe in Rio de Janeiro. Little did we know (or see) the son of Rio’s ruthless drug lord, Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa). Fast-forward to today when Dom gets a visit from his arch-nemeses, Cipher (Charlize Theron). Looks like Dante is back and planning to kill Dom and his crew, but not before he inflicts pain upon him first. Sounds reasonable, right? First things first. . . blow stuff up! Bickering pair Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) & Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), super driver Han Lue (Sung Kang), and computer hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are all sent to Rome, Italy for a job by the Agency’s new leader, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). But it’s a trap! In a magnificent opening set piece of explosions, stunts, and car chases, Dom, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the F&F crew try and stop a huge rolling Death Star-like ball bomb from blowing up Italy! Wow!!
But that’s just the beginning of the mayhem. Framed as international terrorists, the Furious Five are split everywhere: Letty is arrested and dumped at the Agency’s top-secret black site, Dom is on the run and gets help from Mr. Nobody’s daughter, Tess (Brie Larson), and Roman, Tej, Han, and Ramsey are globetrotting trying to find cars and firearms, but only find a pissed-off Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who has to go rescue his mum (Helen Mirren). Meanwhile, the Agency has put out a bounty on Dom and his crew, sending their top agent, Aimes (Alan Richson), after them. This causes Jakob Toretto (John Cena) to return and rescue Dom’s 8-year-old son, Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) from being kidnapped. There are multiple chases, cool fights, a street race in Rio against Dante, and everyone getting shot at or beaten up/nearly dying at some point. At least no one goes into space this time!
There’s also, like in all these F&F movies, a complete and total disregard for simple logic or the laws of physics or gravity. Nothing in this screenplay by Dan Mazeau (Wrath of the Titans) & Justin Lin (six of the F&F movies, Star Trek Beyond) makes any sense whatsoever as it has massive plot holes, inconsistencies, and the most stupid and insane (but incredibly entertaining) driving stunts you’ll ever see! The Italian bomb car stunt was just a warm-up to the finale: Dom saving his son from the evil clutches of Dante on a freeway with two helicopters! It’s utterly ridiculous, hilarious, and yet jaw-droppingly exciting. Yes, many bad guys (and a whole lotta civilians, I suspect) are killed by the dozens, but Dom and his ‘family’ manage to survive the most unbelievable, intense, and catastrophic events that would send an ordinary human to the morgue 100 times over.
The biggest controversy surrounding this film was director Justin Lin leaving mid-shoot citing ‘creative differences’, although it’s widely known he butted heads with Vin Diesel on more than one occasion. Just looking at the YouTube video would confirm that! Director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, The Incredible Hulk) was hired as his replacement and made several rewrites to the script attributed to Lin and Mazeau. But you can’t argue with Leterrier’s direction as he really knows his stuff; expertly weaving the camera around like Lin, Michael Bay, or Paul Greengrass. His only fault is in some close-up stunt filming, where his hand-to-hand gets muddied. If there were a suitable replacement for Justin Lin, this is the man.
Diesel does his usual growling voice with Rodriguez getting into a cool fight with Theron, who goes all Atomic Blonde in another scene. Cena has eased up on his scowling persona since the last film and is now the doting uncle; a nice touch. The sad part is Gibson, Bridges, and Kang. The constant bickering routine of Gibson & Bridges has just gotten old and stale and it shows, while Kang mopes around so much he’s depressing as hell. Heck, the kid (Perry) showed more energy and life! The real standout is Mamoa playing Dante as an effeminate fop that is both psychotically dangerous while still being joyfully villainous. A tricky persona to pull off, but he does it with unabashed glee. As outrageously dumb and over-the-top silly as this movie is, I can’t wait to see what part two has in store! The cliffhanger ending is just plain nuts! Oh, and stay for the mid-credits teaser, too!
**Now showing in theaters only
Fast Five (2011)
Many would argue that it was F&F4 that jumped the franchise shark into the WTH world with their now standard brand of cartoonish shootouts, explosions, death-defying stunts, and a complete disregard for the laws of gravity & physics. I say that this is the one that started it all. Fight me!
Wasting zero time from the previous Fast ‘n’ Furious 4 film, we see convicted felon, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) being sent to prison via transport bus, only to get busted out of said bus by his buddies, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Toretto’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). They all high-tail it to Rio and hold up with Dom’s notorious pal, Vince (Matt Schultze), who has a job for them: stealing three really expensive cars from a moving train. Pffft! Easy! After stealing the cars, Dom & Brian get captured by Brazil’s leading businessman & crime lord, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). They escape and find a hidden computer chip in one of the stolen cars telling them of all Reyes’ money-laundering schemes! Meanwhile, the DEA has sent no-nonsense agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to find Dom & friends. Luke employs a local newbie to his task force, Rio police officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky).
After a harrowing and spectacular shoot-out, chase, and escape in and around the stacked slum houses with both the DEA and Hernan’s goons, Dom decides to take Hernan down and steal his $100 million in cash. Quicker than you can say, “Avengers assemble!”, along comes the team of super-driver Han Lue (Sung Kang), bike rider Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), and the bickering comic relief duo of Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and computer hacker, Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges). Following both the Oceans 11 and The Italian Job heist playbooks, the team plan on getting Hernan to sequester all his cash inside his massive safe inside police HQ, then steal the safe! When Hobbs and Elena are nearly killed in another shoot-out with Hernan’s men, it’s Dom and his “family” to the rescue, making Hobbs & Elena grateful enough to join them in their quest.
But it’s the climatic third act where the film’s major set piece is unashamedly unveiled as Dom and Brian race through the city streets of Rio dragging a huge several-ton safe behind them, causing untold destruction, mayhem, and probably killing many innocent people in their wake. It’s quite the jaw-dropping spectacle and well worth the wait. Screenwriter Chris Morgan (almost all the F&F films, Shazam! Fury of the Gods) apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘ridiculous’. For each of his movies keeps one-upping the previous one in silliness and eye-rolling logic to the point where now they’ve just become a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon.
Director Justin Lin (six of the F&F movies, Star Trek Beyond) has no limits to his camera work. It’s quite impressive (and quite often dizzying) to see what he can do with each progressive F&F movie. Even his television work (Community, Scorpion, Magnum P.I.) is damn good. He knows how to set up a shot, how to stage and film a fight scene, and those infamous car chases are his signature moves. Watching this fifth movie in the series you can easily see where the franchise was headed and it never looked back. Thank God! Can you imagine the F&F movies being dull and boring again? I can’t!