Fast Five (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
I've gotten behind most of the Fast & Furious movies because, with the exception of the lame Tokyo Drift, they've been packed with thrilling action and peopled with protagonists who walk that bad-boy line cagily enough to make rooting for them a guilty pleasure. But something is off in Fast Five (aka Rio Heist aka 5ast and 5urious — someone please make it stop), which prevented me from enjoying all the stuff blowing up real good.
Maybe I'm just getting too old for this, but I'm tired of seeing people who do bad championed as heroes merely because the bad they do isn't that bad. It all begins with the film's opening gambit, in which former cop and FBI agent turned criminal Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his main squeeze, Mia (Jordana Brewster), bust her brother and Brian's pal Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) off a prison bus, after he's been sent up for 25 years to life with no possibility of parole.
If I recall correctly, it's not like Dom was wrongly convicted or anything. He's just, I dunno, too cool for prison? He is Vin Diesel, after all.
So hey! It's all good! Chris Morgan's script delights in letting us know just that, despite the horrificness of the prison-bus crash that director Justin Lin stages for our viewing pleasure. (There were no fatalities! Hoorah!)
But 5ast 5ive won't let it go, and what happens next really bothers me. Brian and Mia end up in Rio, where they hook up with Dom and other pals and decide to heist fancy-schmancy sports cars from a moving train. The racing alongside the train and busting in with blowtorches is very exciting, but there comes a moment when Dom is cornered by the cops: He is most definitely caught ... except then one of the bad bad guys shoots the cops dead. And now good bad guy Dom escapes again.
Not so fast, though ... superbadass cop Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, pumped up to a terrifying degree) arrives to bring in the crew, who's now tops of the most-wanted list. But local cop Elena (Elsa Pataky), Hobbs' translator, becomes convinced that Dom cannot possibly be that bad that he would shoot cops, and she's not wrong: Dom is indeed not that bad. But the movie chickens out when it allows him to benefit from the deaths of those cops while also allowing him the golden badge of not that bad for not having shot them himself.
That sourness lingers over the rest of the film, which likely would have fallen on its face anyway out of sheer laziness. Who cares if the film skips over most of the actual street racing that made the first movies so ridiculously exciting? Who cares if, in its place, we get a shoddy Ocean's Eleven heist knockoff? Who cares if the Robin Hood aspect — the gang is heisting a drug dealer's millions — gets lost in a level of civic destruction that would make Michael Bay blush?
The big moment of triumph, of course, comes when Dom doesn't kill a federal officer just to watch him die ... after we've spent the whole movie supposedly in his thrall because he's absolutely, definitely not the kind of man who would do such a thing. What's heroic about any explanation for such a storytelling gambit?