Justin Lin | 125 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13
Like a Doctor Who anniversary special, the fifth film in the Fast and the Furious franchise brings together its previous eras in an attempt to reach new heights of… something. Box office, most likely. Which worked. Fortunately, it also paid off as perhaps the most entertaining film in the series to date.
In hiding following the events of the last film, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Jordana Brewster end up sucked into a bit more criminal activity, which goes wrong — in the process drawing the ire of a local crime boss (24 season three’s Joaquim de Almeida) and an FBI super-squad, led by Dwayne Johnson. Cue an audacious heist plan and more action than you can shake a (gear)stick at.
Although it started out as a series about street racing, with some light criminal activity on the side, the fourth film tried to move F&F on a bit — but failed, thanks to being distinctly crap. Five is what that film wanted to be. It’s still not clever, but it is big — a big, somewhat daft, perhaps too long in the middle, but ultimately fun, Action Movie. It contains as much fisticuffs, shoot-outs and foot chasing as it does bits with cars, though naturally the climax is one huge motor-based action sequence.
The plot is essentially “Ocean’s Eleven with cars”, which is a surprisingly good concept. It also facilitates both the “getting the band back together” tone and a drip-feed of adrenaline. The notion of bringing in characters from every previous film serves its (presumed) purpose of making this feel like a bigger movie, a kind of celebration of the series to date. Whether it deserves such a party is beside the point — it ties together an increasingly disparate run of movies, in the process creating a surprisingly likeable team dynamic.
The oddest thing is that, between the “one last hurrah” tying-together and an ending that I won’t reveal but is tidy, the whole thing feels very conclusive — and I say that’s “odd” because it was never intended to be the final one: the foreshortened title was meant to be an indication that there was a ‘second half’ to come (hence why the next film is sort-of called Furious 6), and there is indeed a last-minute cliffhanger (depending on your point of view, it’s either a good twist or a tiresome comic-book-y move).
The Fast & Furious series has no right to have survived as long as it has, nor as successfully — it seemed destined for failure as its recognisable cast slowly abandoned it and the box office faltered. Yet somehow it came back fighting, with both this and last year’s sequel proving huge hits, and a seventh instalment rushed into production so quickly it lost its director. Even though the series’ longevity to this point was largely unmerited, if the makers can continue to produce films as unpretentiously entertaining as Fast Five, it earns its current place in the cinematic landscape.
Fast Five is on Film4 HD tonight at 9pm. Fast & Furious 6 is currently available on Sky Movies and Now TV.