It may have taken five movies to get here, but finally someone had asked: what if The Fast and The Furious were greater than the sum of its parts? Fast Five is our proof that it can exist beyond puerile genre exercises and can be as well-plotted and neatly choreographed as any action film out there. In Justin Lin’s third contribution as director, he has elevated the work from workmanlike car porn to a film that’s in the conversation for the great films of 2011 (if not for the highly elevated Drive).
It helps that Fast Five is playing with a loaded deck. The Fast and the Furious series had been around long enough at this point to play to its own nostalgia. It’s a big warm family reunion without all the in-fighting. Here, Fast Five establishes the forthcoming DNA for the series: it is about cars but they only matter because of the people inside them and family always comes first.
It was at this point where I began marathoning these films on a consistent basis with my younger brother. It became our shared cinema experience. It didn’t matter how bad a few of the original films were, because these brought us together. That’s what they are all about: a bonding experience. And from Five on, we found something of ourselves and our relationship preserved on the screen. We continue to get together for the latest films in our adult years. For something that had previously seemed brainless and just-for-fun, the series provided us a new connection and camaraderie where no other films have.
With that, I want to say it still feels personally close. And I can still get excited about the train scene in the desert, where cars are offloaded from ramps at blistering speeds and ends in a steep descent off a cliff. I’m still filled with adrenaline every time The Rock and Vin Diesel’s characters meet for the first time and an incredibly satisfying fight breaks out, where they drive one another through not one, but two windows. And when the crew’s dragging a bank vault down the streets of Rio de Janeiro, tethered only to two sports cars, where incredible feats of storyboarding and editing come together for one of my all-time favorite bait and switch chase sequences. It’s all a victory of thoughtful consideration, a cast expertly used to their fullest potential.
Fast Five isn’t a perfect film. Its dialogue exists only as an excuse for action or direct scene development. It seems that any conversation of depth and weight is covered by an iceberg principle, where only the part we need to understand is spoken. It’s a taut crime drama that goes beyond motorist pursuits; The Fast and Furious is now a movie for everyone with a family, or those without who have found their own tribe. This mass appeal never comes across as cheap or exploitative; it’s just the truth. Let’s celebrate big movies with a heart.