by L. Thompson | Thu., Apr. 28, 2011 2:45 PM
Review in a Hurry: The fifth in the Fast and the Furious franchise of flicks about car thieves and their sweet rides ought to be called The Slow and the Spurious. Featuring a mere two car-chase sequences and a pointlessly padded run time, it's an unfortunate low point after Fast and Furious (aka part four) appeared to return things to fine form.
The Bigger Picture: In the vastly superior prior film, the tagline "New model. Original parts" signified both a reunion of the first movie's cast and a legitimately worthy sequel. This one, which reunites major characters from all of the movies, feels a bit like a tricked-out pimp car: It sure has a lot of colorful stuff attached, but very little of it actually works.
Part of the problem is that we are being asked to care about familiar faces quite late in the game, long after the initial trilogy specifically conditioned us not to give a damn by replacing the core cast willy-nilly and assuming that viewers only cared about the cars. If you feel a genuine emotional attachment to everyone shown on the poster, perhaps it'll work.
But there are other problems aplenty. Wildly inconsistent director Justin Lin seems to have directed his players to act deliberately wooden, which leads to quite a few laughs that may not be intentional. Later scenes that try to show genuine pain (signified by slow-motion and yelling at the sky) end up looking silly as a result. Worse, though, he's trying to make an Ocean's 11-type heist movie from a blockbuster wannabe where all we really want is to get the guys into cars. Unforgivably for a film in this series, we actually get a scene where Dominic (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) enter a race to win a new car...and we don't even see the race! For the target audience, you might as well be showing a PG-rated adult film.
Then there are the constant pans across the cityscape of Rio de Janeiro, which are, one imagines, primarily designed to distract from soundstage interiors and the actual locations in Puerto Rico and Atlanta.
But wait, what about the long-awaited showdown between Vin Diesel and The Rock? (Sorry, folks, but since he's signed on for the main event of next year's WrestleMania already, his ring name is once again more apropos than "Dwayne Johnson.") Sporting a goatee only slightly less awful than he had at WrestleMania 20, the once and future ring champ is cast as a Terminator-like character that would have been perfect for the real Schwarzenegger but feels askew here with a performer who's so obviously in on his own joke. He gets to crash through windows a lot, and yes, there's a hand-to-hand battle with Diesel; unfortunately, it's shot all sped-up and isn't as easy to comprehend as it should be.
The scene-stealers turn out to be Ludacris and Tyrese, who have an easy, comic banter. If there must be a sequel, focusing on them might not be a bad plan (shame that a post-credits "Easter egg" implies a different sort of follow-up).
The 180—a Second Opinion: The two car chases that bookend the film are solid action set pieces, which is why the trailers focus almost entirely on them. Sadly, everything between is skippable. It's like the worst reverse-Oreo cookie ever.