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Franchise fans will race to ‘Fast Five’

Formula action series keeps rolling along with car crashes a 5-year-old would love

POSTED: April 28, 2011 12:30 a.m.
/Universal Pictures

Vin Diesel, left, and Paul Walker reprise their roles in "Fast Five," the latest iteration of the "Fast and Furious" franchise. The film delivers more of what fans want: car chases, gun battles and pretty people.

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With the release of "Fast Five," I guess the summer movie season is upon us. And by "upon us" I mean it is set to trap us in a headlock, strap us to the hood of a muscle car and drive really fast until it crashes into something. Repeatedly.

It's hard to believe this franchise is still going — and going strong at that. "The Fast and the Furious" came out in 2001, and now just shy of 10 years later comes the fifth movie to build on what seemed like a one-note idea.

The fact is, it is a one-note idea, but it's a note that continues to give (some of) the people what they want: relentless action, hot cars and very pretty people.

The story this time (let's pretend it matters) borrows heavily from the "Ocean's Eleven" series. Give Danny Ocean and his crew guns and muscles and this is pretty much what you get.

We begin with Dom (Vin Diesel) being sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole. As he and a bus load of other dangerous criminals are being transferred, Dom's family breaks him out.

Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), a former FBI agent who is now Dom's best friend, and Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brian's lover, use hot cars in the most absurd way to wreck and completely demolish the bus.

No one is hurt, and Dom is the only prisoner to escape.

Two scenes later, Dom, Brian and Mia try to steal three cars off of a moving train. The owner of the cars, a kingpin named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), loses a few men during the heist but is more angry about losing the cars. A few DEA agents are also gunned down in that scene, which ends with the train exploding and Dom and Brian driving off a plateau into a river.

And crash bang, 10 minutes into the movie, we've seen a bus obliterated, two cars stolen, a train derailed, numerous explosions, a handful of fatal shootings and two characters leaping off a moving car from a height that makes Butch and Sundance's famous jump off a cliff look like a 10-year old doing a cannonball off the diving board.

We have also seen plausibility stretched far beyond its breaking point.

These opening sequences are perfect preparation for the rest of the movie. The story is practically meaningless. The only things we need to know are that Dom is going to get a crew together to take down Reyes, Reyes' men are going to hunt down Dom and said crew, and the deaths of those DEA agents is going to put a federal agent named Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) onto Dom's trail, too.

All of which is just an excuse for one chase and crash after another. The story and action sequences bear all the storytelling logic of a 5-year old playing with Matchbox cars. And that's the point.

These movies are made to indulge the part of us that never grew out of toy cars. I saw the film with a theater full of fans devoted to the franchise, and they all chuckled at the movie's more ridiculous plot twists and over-cooked dialogue.

The movie harkens back to the days of exploitation cinema in the 1970s, but it's hard to label "Fast Five" as exploitation when the audience is clearly in on the joke and not being exploited.

This is indulgent action, pure and simple, and the highest compliment I can give it is that it makes good on its promises.

The cast includes faces familiar to the franchise, including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot and Matt Shulze, but also adds Elsa Pataky, who looks to return for number six in the series.

That's right — there is no sign of "Fast Five" slowing down. This movie gives audiences exactly what they want and leaves little doubt that we'll see Dom and the crew again.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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