Before Fast Five was released, I speculated with my friends about the inevitable title of the fifth movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise. They’d already had The Fast and the Furious (which I have not seen), 2 Fast 2 Furious (which I have yet 2 see), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (which I haven’t seen yet) and my personal favourite title, Fast and Furious. It’s that thing that movies do when they restart the narrative from some point in the middle. It’s not a remake, so you can’t just call it The Fast and the Furious. It’s not an expansion, like Tokyo Drift. It’s a new adventure starring some old friends, so you give it a title in the spirit of the first four. And as they were going the reductive route in the previous movie, I thought that they could boil the essence of the title down even further. Ladies and gentlemen, my wholly unironic bet for the title of this movie… was SPEED/ANGER. And honestly, the movie might have been a lot better if that was what they’d titled it from the script to production.
Sometimes a movie strikes the wrong tone and loses any and all potential to be good along the way. I know I just gave up the game on my opinion of SPEED/ANGER out the gate, but bear with me through this. Fast Five is not a good movie by any means. At the end of the day, its dialogue is clunky, its characters very occasionally little more than cardboard cutouts, representations of criminals and lawmen as evoked by symbol rather than character. The movie is not a good movie. Just like Popeyes Chicken is bad for you, but you keep going back there anyway. You don’t eat Popeyes Chicken to be a vegan, and you don’t eat it to lose weight and you don’t eat it to be one of the beautiful people. You eat it because it has so much sugar, salt and fat that it hits every “delicious!” receptor in your brain and sends them into overdrive. And Fast Five–or rather, SPEED/ANGER–is Popeyes Chicken for the silver screen.
I pretty much only saw this movie to see one shot that was in the trailer. There was exactly one sequence that I needed to see play out on film from start to end so I could tell the context. And that was the part where Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive a car off a cliff into a river at high speed. Because from watching it, you can tell that some real stunt men really drove (or fell) off a cliff (or from a great height) with a car and into a river. And I have sort of a dirty thing for stunts. If your movie has impressive stunts in it–it’s like girls and fast, powerful automobiles: I go weak in the knees and become a gibbering, giddy moron, willing to eat whatever you’re serving. I think I first discovered this cinematic weakness of mine when I saw the trailer for Grindhouse and knew that no matter what the movie was surrounded by, I was going to love Death Proof. Zoe Bell, real stuntwoman, on the hood of a real car, being hit by a real car, flying down an abandoned road, shot at speed. No speeding the film up. No computer generated wizardry. Just real dumb people on the hoods of real cars. Schwing.
And as an audience member, let me tell you: I did not give one red cent–I did not care in the slightest about whatever story Fast Five was trying to convey. I know I’m not caught up on the labyrinthine backstory–I know I don’t quite get the entangled web of characters–but that doesn’t really matter. If you’re watching Fast Five, you know you aren’t there for a rich, Shakespearean theatrical experience. If you wanted that, you’d be next door or parked at the next screen watching Thor. You are here for cars, fights, guns and heists. And brother does Fast Five deliver in those regards.
I would tell you about the attractive lady car thieves. I would tell you about the goofy black support characters. I would tell you about the “noble” and “worthy” discussions of fatherhood in this movie and how husbands, fathers, wives and lovers aren’t always there when we need them. Mostly because for these people, they’re dead. I would tell you about the elaborate heist whose schedule is written and re-written so many times that all the scenes with cars between the planning and the execution are rendered irrelevant by the time it all goes down. I would tell you about pregnancies and continuity gags and all this other stuff. But all you really need to know is that this is a movie that stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and features a fist fight between the two of those men. Dwayne Johnson with a deliciously evil goatee, nonetheless. You wanna see this yet?
By no rights can I call Fast Five a good movie. It’s poorly paced, shoddily written, acted badly. But something tells me that the crew behind this movie–well, they may not be in on the joke, but they’re surely ready to have some fun. As such, The Rock delivers the best bad performance I’ve seen in a movie this side of Drive Angry, becoming a sort of tribute to the stoic and hardassed villains of yore. He delivers each line with such purpose and energy that I marvel at how wooden it can be at times. And yet, I’ve seen him in voice-acting roles where he shows as much depth and emotion as someone we assume to be far more capable. And I think it’s because a lot of people on the set of this movie realized what it was.
Fast Five is not a good movie. It has good chase scenes, good fight scenes, sure. But it’s a technician’s job behind the camera and far too heavy with its seriousness. No, Fast Five might not be a good movie–but it is a fantastic car. TWO AND A HALF STARS