Fast Five

Fast Five ★★★★

The opening is utterly dominating, paced with the mania and control of a road runner until the full weight of a prison bus somersaulting sideways crashes over the viewer. As the title card appears, the needle is withdrawn from the audience's heart, every drop of adrenaline crunched into their bloodstreams, before the engine revs and the movie goes from zero to sixty in one hundred and twenty frames flat.

My favorite moment in the series arrives about ten minutes in. The train heist sequence--smack a locomotive in your action movie, you get bonus points from me; no questions asked--is a strong contender for the franchise's best set piece: a near perfect concoction of comradery, vehicular mayhem, and faith. But while the sports-car-as-escape-pod and cliff jump both capitalize on the series' penchant for bonkers-but-manageable spectacle to immensely gratifying effect, it is the first crescendo of the heist that sells the sequence, and the film, and perhaps even the entire franchise. Brian and Mia begin by discussing their plans for the future, for their own type of family, setting the personal stakes for the upcoming job. Brewster is as magnetic as she was in 2001, while Walker has matured tremendously as an actor. Their chemistry is most likely reliant on an extratextual friendship, and the interaction, in turn, feels genuinely impassioned. Both of their gazes are so inviting and kind. From there, the mission begins. The two steal an ID card, a truck of henchmen is seen hurtling towards the train across the desert, a DEA tag reveals that things might go awry. But the job goes on, the side of the train is sliced off, and from the sudden, heavenly brightness of daylight emerges Dominic Toretto. He smiles warmly, emanating a tenderness somewhere between pride and relief, before his sister embraces him.

It is not the final climax of the set piece, but the catharsis offered is visceral, resolving Dom's noticeable absence in the film's opening moments. The set piece builds to a reunion of family with the same gravitas as a narrow escape from death. Each character's emotional state is treasured, as well as their relationship to the rest of the ensemble. The cast features somewhere around a dozen members, but not a single one of them is wasted. Lin's character shuffling, perhaps his strongest attribute as a director, efficiently mixes and matches every hermano and hermana in la familia, each interaction a brick in the ever-expanding emotional home: a cohesive, communal group bound by honor, empathy, and Corona.

Of course, The Rock is a stand-out (as is Sung Kang 🕶️), and bringing him onto the franchise is simultaneously a stroke of genius and a total no-brainer. But I hesitate highlighting him ( and Sung Kang 🕶️) since playing favorites carries the disingenuous implication of unevenness; there isn't a single weak link among this cast. Maybe the villain, but who the fuck cares about the villain? Lin even manages to make Vince interesting. Vince: the aggressive guy that calls Brian a gay slur in the first entry, a line reading that instantly puts the film in a darker light while also dating it. Fucking Vince. He's somehow fun to watch here, and his departure from the narrative is absolutely upsetting. How? It defies all laws of nature. But, then again, following those was never this series' strong suit.

From my notes: "Not the best popcorn movie, but if popcorn was a movie."

Perhaps nothing more than a vague scribbling that I jotted down at one in the morning, but I can kind of see where I was coming from in that moment. Greasy, munchable cinema that is meant to be shared. What a gift.

JKM liked these reviews