Written by: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
All franchises hit the high point of quality where everything they seek to accomplish occurs at its finest level. The level of quality remains relative with some having higher ceilings than others, but Fast Five unquestionably represents the zenith of this high-octane franchise. Diving straight into being an action film featuring some race sequences, this film has all of its elements running at their best.
After freeing Toretto (Vin Diesel) from prison, Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are now on the run from law enforcement seeking refuge in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the hope to run one last gig until they all disappear, Toretto assembles a team of the best he’s worked with to rob the local drug lord. A task made even more complicated with them being hunted by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).
Watching Fast Five ran similarly to me as seeing The Avengers became for comic book lovers as it assembles beloved characters working together for one cause. Similar to Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America having their own movies before uniting in the 2012 feature, this film serves as the equivalent for the Fast and Furious films. A supporting character from each of the preceding four films makes an appearance and plays an integral part in this story and their seamless integration to working together lifts this film’s prospects to the very top. There are the original characters from the first one, Tej Parker (Chris Bridges) and Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) from the second, Han Lue (Sung Kang) from the third, and Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Leo (Tego Calderón), and Santos (Don Omar) from the fourth all coming together. All very different personalities and having them together for the purposes of combining their advanced skills to pull off a heist makes for a wildly fun ride.
With this feature, the circus travels to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which displays the beauty of the location and the danger surrounding the characters when they aggravate the local drug lord. It leaves these characters running away not only from this well-connected drug lord but also Hobbs and his ruthlessly sweaty pursuit to bring Toretto and O’Conner to justice. A tall task to order for the crew but this film seeks to highlight the skills of each member brought in and why they serve as integral parts of the team. That’s always been one of the highlights of this franchise as a whole. Most of the supporting characters don’t just sit on the sidelines while the main protagonists get all of the limelight. While limited when compared to other emotional arcs, even someone like Han and Roman contribute in discernible ways to the plot.
Even as the old characters come back to unite, the biggest upgrade came from the addition of Dwayne Johnson into this film. Becoming known as franchise viagra for the way he can seamlessly enter movies and make them moneymakers through his star power, Johnson makes an immediate impact with his portrayal of Hobbs. A menacing man through his stature, he becomes the ultimate adversary for Toretto, which puts these two action stars fighting head-to-head in a matchup perfectly built up within the feature. Toretto has constantly proven to be someone not to mess with and Hobbs immediately becomes a threat only in the way Dwayne Johnson can.
As mentioned earlier, this film moves away almost entirely from the idea of racing and more so uses vehicles as a means to get things done. In this case, it becomes about stealing $100 million from the drug lord as their ticket to freedom and a bit of revenge for his attempts to kill the crew. This sets up the incredible set-piece where Toretto and O’Conner hook into a large vault and drag it through the city. If this sounds absolutely ridiculous and not something you would find entertaining in watching then you have discovered that this film and every other one following it might not be for you. Fast Five begins the franchise’s love for ridiculously over-the-top mostly impossible action set pieces but they work because of the emotional stakes involved. The heist sequence gets filmed with such precision and weight to make every turn important to the story. It becomes the perfect combination of racing and action, which makes this one of the finer films of the genre within the 2010s.
After pulling through at the bottom of the franchise’s history, Justin Lin comes back around and creates the best of them all with Fast Five. It becomes the ultimate culmination of all the films and serves as a perfect conclusion for it all but the incredible success of it led to several more being made. Certainly, a testament to this film’s quality seeing as it shows the true zany potential of what these characters can do and how they can just ignore the rules of physics for the sake of entertainment. Even with all of the action happening, it still maintains the emotional throughline of family and how it involved Toretto, O’Conner, and Mia from the very beginning.