Dale Nauertz’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've always enjoyed this movie, but this time I realized how solidly constructed it is. Sure, it adds more crowd-pleasing actors (The Rock, virtually everyone who's ever been in a "Fast/Furious" movie) together in a mercenary fashion in order to draw in everyone who's ever expressed even mild interest in one of these things. And, yes, a lot of the action sequences are brazenly ridiculous in conception. But it's in the execution of this thing that Justin Lin proves himself an alchemist of lowbrow entertainment, taking something that sounds like trash and turning it into gold.
Lin and all of the actors care enough about this nonsense that we do too. It's that level of sincerity that distinguishes "Fast Five". As usual, all that talk of "family" and petty criminal nobility feels genuine here. None of these performances have quotation marks around them, there's no ironic distance. The camaraderie between all of these actors also feels genuine, and this movie arguably delivers on that camaraderie better than any of the others in this surprisingly durable franchise. All of these intangibles are what make "Fast Five" so refreshing to behold, and are what makes these movies so continually popular. I'll admit that I turned up my nose to them initially. I wasn't bowled over by the original, and I didn't bother with any of them again until this one (I find The Rock inhumanly charismatic and cannot resist any film featuring him for long) but this one grabbed me. It won me over and made me a convert.
It also helps that this is the most straightforward and streamlined of these films, for my money. After this, as great as "Fast 6" is, the movies started adding complications and making their plots needlessly complex. No such problems are present here. And the moment where The Rock joins forces with them is so monumentally satisfying. In fact, this whole damned movie is satisfying. It gives you everything you want and doesn't waste time with anything that doesn't work. The romance between Gal Gadot and Sung Kang is one of my favorite aspects of it. For a movie this big and loud, that sub plot is delightfully low key and, again, unfolds in a way that feels genuine. It makes their eventual fate hit that much harder, because their relationship is so sweet and winning here, and they have such chemistry together. Paul Walker is actually pretty great here too, which is something I never thought I'd say. He's the solid core of this film, and he gives it a lot of heart.
Vin Diesel, on the other hand, feels like the only actor who seems to think this movie is beneath him. His performance occasionally smacks of contractual obligation. He always seemed slightly constipated to me. It's one of the few things that brings this movie down a notch. Joaquim de Alameda is a wonderful villain, though, and he's not the moustache-twirling, scenery-eating super-prick that so many movies of this type feature. He's grounded, much like many of the performers here, and the plot. The elements that ground this movie just make the more outre elements (the SAFE!) all the more surprising and fun and giddily entertaining. Plus, those moments are orchestrated in such exhilarating, clear-eyed, adrenalized, coherent fashion. It's great stuff. As with "Tokyo Drift", there's a neat travelogue aspect to the film too. The favelas and beaches and everything else about Brazil infuse the movie and give it a unique flavor.
As I said, there's a wonderful alchemy at work here. Easily my favorite of the bunch. I can't wait to bask in the wonderful ludicrosity of "Fate of the Furious" (now featuring Furiosa).