The Shallow Man Movie Review: Fast Five

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: if you like “The Fast and the Furious” movies, you’re probably going to like this one.  It’s “better” than the first one, from what I remember, inasmuch as the stunts are bigger, the cars faster, the girls sluttier and more abundant, the musclemen shout-ier and sweatier, the crass materialism more celebratory. Rest assured that it’s exactly what it looks like, so if you think it looks awesome, it probably will be.

It would be silly to criticize “Fast Five” on the grounds on believability, because the movie never makes any pretense of believability. In fact, it wears its utter preposterousness like a badge on its chest, or elaborate ground effects on its car.  The very first scene is a high-speed jailbreak conducted in the desert, where a prison bus is taking Dom (Vin Diesel) to prison. Could the gang stop this bus?  Throw down some spike strips? Kidnap the driver?  Well, they could, but that wouldn’t be the “living-your-life-a-quarter-mile-at-a-time way” now would it? NEEDS MO’ XXXTREEME!

“Dude. I have a plan.”

“Uh, does it involve cars?  And does it hinge on being really good at driving cars? Because otherwise, NOT INTERESTED.”

So, the way they spring Dom from his jail bus is, his sister Mia speeds in front of the bus in her little 3,000-pound Acura NSX or whatever, spins around to face the bus head on, and plays chicken with it. Naturally, seeing this, the bus driver veers off course to prevent a collision with THIS TINY SPORTS CAR THAT THE BUS WOULD TEAR THROUGH LIKE A FLAMING SPEAR THROUGH WET PAPER, only to fall right into their trap!  That brilliant trap being, now the bus is on a collision course with the back of Dom’s magic Dodge Charger, which Paul Walker has parked directly in the bus’s path.  The bus hits the back of this Dodge, and does what any bus rear-ending another car would do: fly off of it and shoot into the air as if it was a motorcross half-pipe and flip in sideways circles like a barrel roll A THOUSAND AND ONE TIMES!  OOOOOH WHA-AH AH-AH!  Vin Diesel (who was inside the flipping bus) and Paul Walker (who was driving the Dodge that got rear-ended by a full prison bus going 80 mph), obviously walk away unscathed.

Now, there are a thousand ridiculous aspects to this scene: Why would the bus driver swerve out of control to miss a tiny sports car? How did they know the bus would then swerve towards their other car? How did they know Vin Diesel would survive the ridiculously violent bus crash they just caused? To only scratch the surface, why couldn’t they just have had a ramp that dropped down from the back of the Dodge Charger?  That would’ve taken five extra seconds of writing time, and made the scene a good thirty percent more believable.  But as I said, believability is beside the point.

I could write 6,000 words on all the reasons the story doesn’t make any sense, but I doubt there’s much of a counter-argument. “Fast Five” is essentially pro wrestling with cars. I don’t really like pro wrestling. But I know a significant percentage of the people who do truly believe it’s real. It’s less about whether you believe than it is about what you get out of it in exchange for accepting its total unbelievability.  I accept “Commando” because the unbelievability is part of the charm.  NOW HE’S FEEDING A DEER! NOW HE’S CHOPPING OFF ARMS! NOW HE’S SAYING SOMETHING COOL!  I’m not inside the story, feeling what the characters feel, I just think it would be cool to be a huge buff guy who chops off peoples’ arms then tells a finely-crafted joke about it only seconds later.

So why don’t I feel the same way about “Fast Five”?  Mostly because the characters seem stupid.  They’re obsessed with money and shiny things above all else and they think lines like, “This just went from Mission Impossible, to Mission In-Freakin’-Sanity!” are über clever.

My favorite part of this movie was Vin Diesel and The Rock going nose-to-nose (with The Rock literally dripping sweat and Vin Diesel bone dry) trading gruff threats, the subtext of which seemed to be “I DARE YOU TO KISS ME!”  “YEAH?  WELL I DARE YOU TO KISS ME!”

Even if you hate wrestling as much as I do, it’s hard to deny The Rock’s charisma.  The rest of the movie?  Feh.  I accept that “Fast Five” is wish fulfillment. I just think it’s idiot wish-fulfillment.  Still, probably more ridiculous than its predecessors, so that’s something.

Grade ★★★ out of 5 stars
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