At the Movies: Fast Five

And in the race to see who can get their summer movie out first — despite it still being spring — the winner is “Fast Five,” the fifth installment in the surprisingly long-lasting “Fast and Furious” franchise.

As the movie opens, tough guy Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is on his way to prison for crimes he must have committed at the end of “Fast Four,” or whatever they called the previous movie. His best pal Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) do not approve so they go about hijacking his prison bus on a deserted stretch of highway.

And by hijack, I mean they cause the bus to flip over multiple times across the desert landscape. No one dies. I was going to say “Amazingly, no one dies” but surviving a bus crash is nothing compared to what’s to come. After all, we’re only five minutes into the film.

The trio split up and eventually Brian and Mia wind up in Rio at the home of Mia’s brother Vince (Matt Schulze). Vince has lined up an “easy” job for them and Dominic will hook up with them there. The job involves stealing cars from a fast-moving train.

A thrilling train robbery, a confusing double-cross and three dead DEA agents later, Dom, Brian and Mia wind up with a computer chip that holds all the secret information of local crime lord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).

The trio also get blamed for killing the DEA agents and so Super Federal Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his crack team are sent to hunt them down. And Hobbs Always Gets His Man.

Wanting to get even with Reyes, Dominic puts together his own crack team with a plan to steal all the crime lord’s money. Which won’t be easy since Reyes has all his money locked up in a secure vault inside the Rio Police Headquarters.

I’m not a big fan of the F&F franchise — I don’t care much about fast cars or the macho men who love them — but these movies can usually be counted on for a couple of impressive action sequences  and “Fast Five” certainly delivers there. The opening train sequence is wild, there’s a manic parkour chase over the rooftops of Rio and it wraps up with a car chase involving a giant safe.

It’s all big, dumb fun — a live action Road Runner cartoon, if you will. Despite all the destruction it’s pretty bloodless. No one dies unless the script calls for it. The actors are all familiar and comfortable in their roles. If you’ve stayed with the series this long there’s no reason to pull over now.

Did it work for me? I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this but I did. Who could resist watching Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson beating the crap out of each other?

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