4YE’s Big Movie Binge: Fast Five (2011)

Credit: Universal Pictures

Two years after Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) reunited in Fast & Furious to take down a drug kingpin and Dom was captured and convicted to twenty-five years to life in Lompoc Prison, Brian and Mia and the gang return and are on the run in Brazil. They’re hoping to pull off one final job so they can stop running and live the lives they want to live. In Fast Five, gone are the allusions to car culture that has begun to alienate viewers. Instead, the film delivers a mixture of familiar elements to begin the transition from street racing centered stories to a heist story that pits Dom, Brian, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Vince (Matt Schulze), Leo (Tego Calderon), and Santos (Don Omar) against a drug kingpin, Reyes. He just happens to have the whole of Rio in his back pocket including the police force.

Clocking in at two hours and ten minutes, Fast Five was the longest film in the franchise to that point. While it’s a solid installment, it was also a tiny bit bloated. Despite feeling about twenty or so minutes too long, there’s no doubt that the transition from racing film to heist film was a smart move narratively. Not only that, introducing Dwayne Johnson as no-nonsense US Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs was a needed shot of adrenaline and intensity that kept the film from stalling out.

Fast Five picks up immediately where Fast & Furious left off. Brian and Mia bust Dom out of a bus heading to Lompoc prison. The trio meet up in Rio after having been on the run for an indeterminate amount of time. They meet up with their old friend Vince (from the first film) and they are given a job to steal some cars that are in the custody of a couple of DEA agents. Turns out, the person they’re working with is connected to Hernan Reyes, a drug kingpin, and money launderer in Rio. In one of the cars, a Ford GT40, is a computer chip that tells the locations of money houses owned by Reyes. They’re chased through the favelas by Reyes’ men and Hobb’s team. At the end of the chase, Mia reveals she’s pregnant. Dom and Brian bring together members of their old teams to steal the money so they can be free. The plan doesn’t go without a hitch. The group all get their collective money and live a high life of luxury in places where they can’t be extradited back to the States.

As stated previously, Johnson joining the franchises was a saving move despite the fact that this film really feels like the end. That is until the mid-credit scene where it’s revealed Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive and pulling heists in Berlin. If it hadn’t been for that mid-credit scene, I’m not sure where the franchise would be right now. Fast Five feels like the end of the road for Dom and Brian and their colorful crew. Everyone is comfortable, no longer on the run, in love, starting families, and safe. Narratively, it felt like things were wrapped up. Perhaps, that’s why this film felt bloated in some places. It was trying too hard to wrap things up with a neat little bow. Even introducing Vince back into the fold felt forced for the sake of finally ending his character when, to me, his character was finished in the first film.

Despite all that, Fast Five is still entertaining. It was nice seeing Diesel and Johnson together for the first time. Though they share very little screen time together, the moments they do share are charged with some crazy chemistry and electricity which I’m sure will play into future films. It’s hard to believe that Luke Hobbs was once written for Tommy Lee Jones. No matter how entertaining that would have been, I feel that the writers and producers made the right choice to retool Hobbs for Johnson.

I am also glad that Gadot and Brewster had a bigger role in this film. While Gadot’s character’s name is never once used in the film, it’s still nice to see girls in the gang: kicking butt and being involved in the planning and execution of such a high stakes heist. It isn’t Ocean’s 8 by any means, but for the film, the franchise, and the time it was released in Hollywood it was quite a relief to see Gadot and Brewster holding their own in all the testosterone.

Overall, Fast Five accomplished what it set out to do. While Fast & Furious rebooted the franchise in a sense, Fast Five took it speeding in the opposite direction and it worked. It was a great transition film and I can’t wait to see where Fast & Furious 6 takes us.

Shelby Arnold
Hop On In

Shelby Arnold

Shelby is currently reviewer extraordinaire for 4YE. She is also currently the co-editor of Arkansas Tech University's paper The Arka Tech. She runs her own movie review blog called Shellin' Out Reviews where she crossposts many of her reviews. She previously was a staff writer at PopWrapped.

Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)

She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.

You can find Shelby on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Shelby Arnold
Hop On In