“Fast Five” spins out

By Nick O'Malley

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Over a century’s worth of American cinema has built up to this one moment, in which two of the greatest actors of our generation grace the screen in one glorious, yet fleeting, menagerie of bald heads, terrible dialogue and excessive set-smashing.

“Fast Five,” featuring Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in, surprisingly, their first movie together, is the latest installment of one of the few remaining unintentional comedy franchises. Fortunately, the film takes another step away from the its semi-serious roots towards a much more absurd one.

However, what the entire film boils down to is the creation of a scenario in which the film crams as much driving, fighting, scantily-clad women and melodramatic scenes about family into 130 minutes as it can.

That being said, watching Diesel and The Rock share the screen is like watching a pair of rhinos with jetpacks having a rocket launcher fight over an active volcano.

The opening sets the tone for the movie pretty well, as it completely forgoes any type of driving scene and goes straight for a train heist where the crew cuts open a hole in the side of the train just for three cars.

There’s also driving, of course; however, there is less emphasis on quarter-mile drag races that begin in the middle of a crowd of scantily-clad women and more smashing through buildings and gunfire.

In terms of the plot – which is little more than an explanation for all the smashing and driving – “Fast Five” picks up right where the fourth movie’s (“Fast & Furious”) final scene left off and takes the campy level of physically impossible action from the previous film and runs with it. Fortunately, it runs through a glass window off a cliff and into a parked car with only a couple scuff marks and a limp it will forget about in 15 seconds.

The film reaches its high point when, during their inevitable fight scene, the two tackle each other through a window into another room, through a wall into a third room and then through another window back into the original room with no major bodily harm being done.

The central cast does what it needs to. Paul Walker (ex-FBI agent Brian O’Conner) makes his Paul Walker face for a couple hours. Diesel, as Dominic Toretto looks angry, breathes hard and rattles off terrible lines. The Rock, playing Major Hobbs, does the same thing, except for the fact that he sweats profusely through the entire film. And, unfortunately, the what’s-her-face sister (Jordana Brewster) still can’t act and even has her token attractive girl spotlight taken from her.

For those who have grown attached to the horrendously undeveloped characters from the franchise’s other installments, there is a healthy injection of familiar characters. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) from “2 Fast 2 Furious” join Han (Sung Kang) from “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” as they are drawn in for one last job.

The all-star cast aspect brings the air of an “Ocean’s Eleven” type of job, just with more cars and less clothing for women. “Fast Five” even features the “Ocean” type characters of the bumbling guys that no one cares about bickering while they do their jobs.

Somehow, the crew gets the funding to get massive amounts of over-the-top gadgets, computers and simulators for the job, even though it was implied earlier in the movie that the characters hardly had money to eat.

However, glaring plot holes like this one aren’t the reason to see “Fast Five;” it’s that guy with a rocket launcher. You know what he’s going to do with it; just sit back and enjoy it.

At first glance, the romance storyline and any of Diesel’s 15 speeches about the importance of family come off as cheesy, but they are necessary for the pacing of the movie. As opposed to a “Call of Duty” game, where there is constant shooting and explosions, “Fast Five” gives the user a break with the characters acknowledging the dangers of the mission and then dismissing them because they all live their lives a quarter-mile at a time.

The transitions, though, are almost laughable, as each scene is glued to another by gratuitous panning fly-over shots of Rio de Janeiro that feature the same slummy buildings. “Fast Five” also makes a point of utilizing the ominous statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. You know, like every movie set in Brazil does.

But after the third dramatic shot of the statue, it bears the question of whether or not the director got one really good sample of B-roll of the city and forgot to get more before hitting the editing room.

 Overall, “Fast Five” moves the franchise further away from NOS and street racing to rocket launchers and smashing through walls. But in a campy action movie way, it works. In the end, the characters are silly and overacted, the action involves dozens of people being murdered as a consequence of the characters wreaking havoc and the dialogue is hilariously bad.

You know, everything you’d expect from a “Fast and Furious” movie.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at [email protected]