Steve G 🇵🇸’s review published on Letterboxd:
I always wanted to see The Rock v Diesel!
Well, far be it for me to cast doubt on the opinions of the many who insisted that things got really got good when we hit Fast Five, but that's what I did anyway. And I think with plenty of justification, especially after Justin Lin's somewhat bumpy contributions to the series this far.
Perhaps the most extraordinary part of Fast Five for me was the improvement that he's shown as a director since the wretched Tokyo Drift. He shows it in so many ways as well. Gone are the meandering storylines and complete inability to inject his characters with life, not to mention frittering away the potential for some really good action scenes.
The improvement that he showed with Fast & Furious is built on in so many ways. He decides to stick with the generally more serious tone and, despite my misgivings, it really does work. But he also brings back more humour as well, easily helped by the return of Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, as well as the introduction of the splendidly fun bickering of Tego Calderon and Don Omar.
He also has another go at a plot and this time it actually resembles something that is worth following, thankfully stopping short of trying to be anything too serious. The film just actually looks and sounds the part as well. Its headache inducing techno music has more or less been replaced by something that I would actually choose to listen to, and it's filled with more than enough touches to not only suggest directorial competence, but even a large amount of skill and ability. Who knew?!
The critical drubbing that his first two efforts got, although I quite liked Fast & Furious, obviously didn't affect his confidence at all with the absolutely excellent train heist being the best scene in the series so far just a few minutes in. He only then goes and trumps it twice in the same film though, with the breathless gun battle through the favelas then beaten out by a last 20 minutes which features the ridiculous, brilliant and ridiculously brilliant sight of Vin Diesel wrecking havoc on a bridge with a FUCKING VAULT TIED TO THE BACK OF HIS CAR. Are you taking the piss? Bloody brilliant, mate.
It's not just that the action's better and of a broader and more confident variety. There's an awareness of the weaknesses of the series to this point too. Paul Walker isn't given nearly as many lines, which works wonders for him. The same isn't done with Diesel (still too many sombre monologues, bro) but he takes the clear lead in this film as the physicality rises, and that's definitely the right move. There's also less car jargon, thankfully.
It doesn't have any qualms about playing to the gallery either by bringing back the old favourites. Everyone it brings back is thoroughly welcome and then slinging The Rock and Elsa Pataky (<3) on top of them all is a simple crowd-pleasing move which works even better because everyone gets enough time to have something significant to do. That's what you call great action movie ensemble work.
So the question marks I had are well and truly put to bed with a film that, in some ways, is almost miraculously enjoyable and just actually really good. But I do have one other question - is Walker still wearing the same Converse from the first film?