Osage at the Cineplex: FAST FIVE (Universal/Original Film) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 4 Old 05-08-11, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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Osage at the Cineplex: FAST FIVE (Universal/Original Film)

We just got back from seeing this theatrically, so I’d like to offer my thoughts on this fourth sequel to the Universal franchise – what originally began with Rob Cohen’s imperialistic and neon-infused vision/realization of the raging import car tuning scene in Southern California has spun out of control (a little pun intended) into an action franchise that has as much to do with cars at this point as a cat has needs for pajamas. The last entry, Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, was pushing the envelope of synergizing the feel and plot of the original film with taking a new direction, but Fast Five just put this edge straight off the map. It was, truly, merely an eye-candy vehicle for pitting Vin Diesel’s “Dom” character against someone who could truly match his muscle and screen presence (as we have already been shown Paul Walker’s character simply can’t) in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of wresting fame) – in the same way all The Expendables did was pit Sly Stallone against another WWF/WWE superstar, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin…remember the hand-to-hand combat sequence between Stallone and Austin towards the end of that film? That’s exactly what we get with (a really pumped up) Johnson and Diesel here, although the sequence didn’t quite last long enough…

When I did the Blu-ray review of Fast & Furious, I made a mention towards the conclusion that I wasn’t sure how much longer Universal and Justin Lin was going to milk this franchise – of course, the end of that film definitely suggested a sequel, yet I wasn’t sure if it was going to be this quick of a turnaround. But as I said, this is getting less and less about the cars themselves – which was the immediate and visceral draw of the original (and best) film – and is beginning to veer into Live Free or Die Hard territory. Honestly, Fast Five could have easily been called something else, having nothing to do with the Fast & the Furious franchise, and it would have succeeded as a standalone action barnburner. Part of this is due to the decreasing popularity of the so-called “tuned Honda scene” in which morons drop $100K worth of parts into a $15,000 Honda Civic, but at the same time, this phenomenon – no matter how idiotic – is what gave the first Rob Cohen film so much charm. Lin, who seems to have complete creative control over these projects for Universal now, ever since doing the follow-up to the total garbage that was 2Fast2Furious dubbed Tokyo Drift, picks up exactly where the end of his Fast & Furious left off. Mia, Brian and some of the “team” gathered in that last film to hijack gas trucks in the Dominican Republic break Dom (Diesel) out of his ride to prison by causing the bus he’s on to crash and roll over. Of course, only Dom is unaccounted for from all the convicts, but what makes the plot worse is that Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor character has turned completely from renegade cop to just plain renegade. In love with Mia now for sure (the lovely Jordana Brewster) he has knocked her up and decided to stay on the run with the rest of these fugitives – but that’s also what makes this plot so inexcusably thin and weak; what this “team” is constantly running from, or why, and why they feel this camaraderie to stay together is beyond any sense of logic.

Most of the action in Fast Five stays in the streets of Brazil, where Brian, Mia, Dom and an unexpected return of a character from the first film (I won’t say who) come up with a plan to steal some high-end cars from a train that have been impounded by federal police. This sets up a high-energy action sequence in the beginning, as the team, along with some Brazilian locals Dom has fetched, snatch the cars literally off the train with a dune buggy-like vehicle. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a butt-kicking federal agent who is hot on Dom and Brian’s tail (Johnson) and it obviously sets up a hand-to-hand physical fight scene between Diesel and possibly someone who has met his braun. When that time comes, it’s a bit disappointing, as these two muscle-bound, testosterone-toiling he-men kick the absolute snot out of each other, yet neither one really shows an advantage – I would have liked to see perhaps Diesel’s Dom character slug Johnson, only to have Johnson stand there and kind of laugh off the attempt to knock him down…as if to say, Dom – you have finally met your match. This didn’t happen, and the fight actually ends with Diesel getting the upper hand (which was disappointing; I mean, doesn’t Diesel – in any film – ever end up at anyone’s mercy? Is he really this superman every role calls for him to be?) in that he almost beats Johnson to death with a torque wrench…just like he did to someone all those years back.

The Johnson-Diesel fight sequence was exciting enough, and there’s plenty of action – to the point that one could have believed Michael Bay made this film to out-do the pyrotechnics of Bad Boys II – but the plot begins to get really wiry and confusing after awhile, as a gaggle of characters are re-introduced from the second film including Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson (with a hint of the stunning Eva Mendes coming back in the next installment) plus the leftovers from the last film (like the Asian “Han” character, the two Dominican guys from Dom’s fuel-stealing team and, surprisingly, “Arturo Braga”’s girl) who come together on Dom’s and Brian’s request to take down some Brazilian bad guy (remember “Felix Cortez” from Clear and Present Danger?). However, beyond the millions the team want to steal from this guy, there’s no real backbone to the writing here, as it begins with them finding some strange chip in one of the cars they stole in the beginning of the film and leads to them tracing this back to the Brazilian criminal – who the U.S. federal agents are after in addition to Dom and Brian.

Oh – wait: You want car chase sequences? You ask what would one of these be without one? Beyond the aforementioned opening action setpiece where the gang is stealing the cars from the train (doesn’t really count), there’s really only one other race scene, and it’s beyond cheesy: Would you believe somewhere in Brazil, Dom, Brian, Han and Tyrese Gibson’s “Roman” character steal some souped up Dodge police cars and race one another for a quarter mile stretch in unpopulated city streets? Well, that’s the film’s main race sequence. Ridiculous.

As I said, too much was going on here – Walker’s O’Connor character getting Brewster’s Mia character pregnant, a good part of the 2Fast2Furious cast coming back and mixing with original characters and those of the last film, the whole thing just feeling way too far off the mark from a Fast & The Furious film…the notion that Walker’s character has finally caved into the temptation to be one of the bad guys and surrender his career as a fed just to stay on the run with, and remain friends with, Dominic while fathering Mia’s baby was just plain too far-fetched as far as I am concerned. The narrative, at its concluding moments, suggests Mia, Brian and Dom have found a secluded beach somewhere in some far-away country or on some island, free from police intervention, where Dom has found a new love (one of Johnson’s Brazilian agents who was sent in to capture Diesel’s character – a smokin’ little thing who is heads and shoulders above Michelle Rodriguez’s “Letty” in the beauty department) and Brian is getting ready to be a father…but the whole thing just didn’t sit right with me; this is so far from what made the original Fast & The Furious so fetching (as cheesy as it was – and it was) and I realize that plots and characters evolve and mature, but this didn’t feel like the “car film” the first one was.

A word of advice: As it seems to be with all films nowadays, don’t leave when the credits roll – there is a surprise hint in a credit-intermediate sequence involving Johnson’s character and Eva Mendes, and how they are going to explain the appearance of a certain person is beyond me.

Tell me what you thought of Fast Five!
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post #2 of 4 Old 05-10-11, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Osage at the Cineplex: FAST FIVE (Universal/Original Film)

Has any Shackster seen this yet? I'd be curious to know what you thought...
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post #3 of 4 Old 05-13-11, 07:31 AM
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Re: Osage at the Cineplex: FAST FIVE (Universal/Original Film)

I thought it was the best in the series and really liked the way they shifted the action to be less about the cars.

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post #4 of 4 Old 05-14-11, 01:41 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Osage at the Cineplex: FAST FIVE (Universal/Original Film)

Wow -- interesting analysis, Dale. I found the opposite, and found that what made the series was the focus on the cars...that was Rob Cohen's original vision with basing the first film on the Racer X files.

However, that "import tuning scene" was really annoying when you were around it -- I couldn't stand seeing all the hooked up Honda Civics with the "fart can" exhausts bolted on to them all over the streets in and around when the first picture came out. Luckily, much of that hoopla has died off (I realize publications like Import Tuner keep it alive) and I think that's why Justin Lin is taking the series in the direction that he's going -- crime/heist/action. I don't think that any of the sequels thus far had that "feel" that the first Fast and the Furious had which made it horrendously cheesy, but magical at the same time.
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