Fast Five

Fast Five

It's impossible to overstate just how perfectly this catered to my demographic — 17-year old morons who spent all of their free time on Xbox LIVE — at the time of release. It played (and plays) like gangbusters. The Rock throwing Vin Diesel through a wall. The Rock saying, "give me the damn veggies". The Rock materializing out of thin air, double-clotheslining two hapless goons. The sweating. The Rock, The Rock, The Rock. Dwayne Johnson's franchise-rejuvenating turn is heroic for good reason. His performances have proven so charismatic and invaluable to the movies that he has transcended a nickname — Ludacris will always be Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. His Hobbs is emblematic of where the series — and most big-budget filmmaking, for that matter — is at: self-aware without winking.

There's also the bloat, a frequent symptom of stupidly successful movies nowadays. (Fast Five is over twenty minutes longer than any previous F&F movie.) The length is padded out by each supporting character sharing a scene together á la television dramas. But I don't care. I don't care because Justin Lin and Co. have done what nobody seems to shut up about in these movies: make a family. Like the Avengers, these characters are most fun to watch when they're shooting the shit and razzing each other. I especially like Ludacris and Sung Kang. Their work might appear almost narcoleptic when juxtaposed with human cartoons like Tyrese and sentient hot dog Vin Diesel but I detect nonchalance from the two, not laziness. Kang, in particular, exudes cool without straining for it.

The rest of the movie is thankfully nowhere near as subtle. Characters display the typical disregard for human life expected of them, including all of the law enforcement. The big finale involves a switcheroo with two ten-ton safes barreling through brick-and-mortar Rio real estate. You get the idea. This is where the franchise began to weaponize its stupidity, endearing itself to viewers and critics. While the quaint charms of its street racing origins beg to be resurrected more frequently, the increasing gigantism is almost too big to fail. You're only kidding yourself if you can't find something to like here.

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