Fast Five

Fast Five. My, my. This franchise has gone a long way from where it started. I’m struggling to keep up. More is more, but also more is not more. The movie warms up with bus-jacking followed by a high-speed train robbery. Street races feels so quaint in comparison. But it also means this movie doesn’t feel as idiosyncratic as the earlier ones in the series, and there’s more standard-fare crude language, violence, vulgarity. Exploding toilets? Come on, guys. Although, there was one scene where Walker had this goofy, exhilarated smile and just seemed so happy to be at the heart of all the destruction, and I’m like, yeah, I get that. The final tow-chase was legit.

This one also has the undeniable joy of a cast reunion and team chemistry. It’s heist time! (Downside: Sorkin-style teamsplaining the plot, and the inevitable camera that rotates around the planning table at HQ.) And alas, I couldn’t help but let out a resigned sigh when I saw the team’s bundle of new gadgets and spy-tech. Vin Diesel seems to have acquired superhuman strength, and a new rival in the no-nonsense fast-talking Dwayne Johnson (hints of TLJ in The Fugitive), and they get in a fight that’s not very interesting.

The family/togetherness theme was more upfront in this one than the others. “Money will come and go. We know that. But the most important thing in life will always be the people in this room.” And earlier, “Promise me we stick together.” It made me remember back to Tokyo Drift: “I have money. It’s trust and character I need around me. You know, who you choose to be around you lets you know who you are.” With that in mind, I think that’s why some of the best tension of the franchise isn’t in this film: for the most part, they’ve staked out their loyalties and they don’t have to wrestle with them very much.

Two last notes: One, I was disappointed to hear a greater reliance on fairly standard orchestral scores; I remember the earlier movies having more song-based soundtracks that were connected with locale. And two, I love how they did the subtitles, floating and fading out on the screen instead of hugging the bottom edge. Small touch, but it’s cool that they took the time to make it cool.

The Fast and the Furious

The Fast and the Furious. Almost exactly what I was expecting. One surprise, though: I figured there would be some fun, gratuitous style flourishes, but didn’t think it would be so cinematically interesting. The way they edited the racing scenes, the warps and perspective shifts, reminded me of the welding scene in Thief. It goes from a more neutral third-person observer perspective into this subjective-experience interpretive moment. Nicely done. It’s not high drama, but credit for making some gestures towards character-building, even though that’s not the point. And there’s a fun soundtrack. Two-Lane Blacktop is another good movie with itchy street racers.