Fast Five’s opening heist has the Fast crew welding open a passenger train car, ejecting the millions of dollars worth of vehicles inside, and it’s not until some inter-departmental disagreement that someone actually hears/sees something. The train is about 10 cars long, loaded with travelers, and not one of them heard something? Looked back to see cars careening out? Saw the flatbed truck hoisting them to the ground?
Fast Five is done trying to make any logical sense, the series on a “fast” track to Absurdityville with a one-way ticket. Need more proof? After assembling a team of familiar Fast faces, they decide to jack a safe from a Brazilian drug lord. Oh, and by “jack,” that’s referring to pulling it out of the wall with two muscle cars and driving it down the streets for 20-minutes.
It doesn’t come any more ludicrous, the level of damage certainly costing countless lives. It’s one thing when it’s all crooked cops, or at least that’s the loose excuse given to somehow turn these street thugs into heroes. It’s another when that multi-ton safe goes careening into a bank, onto sidewalks, and anything else in its path, sending debris further than most explosives.
You know what though? That sequence is a savior. Fast is sort of a closer to this franchise, a “just-in-case-it’s-done” type of movie that can send it off on a high note if execs pull the plug. They likely won’t, but no one will deny that whoever crafted a sequence involving a safe being towed strategically through the streets wasn’t brilliant. This is the only current Hollywood schlock where it would fit.
The rest of this so-so dud is focused on development, renewing old friendships, or creating new bonds. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is inserted with zero character, just a walking mass of muscle serving as an excuse to fist-fight Vin Diesel. Most of the film isn’t necessary, trudging past the two hour mark with only pockets of action, much of it staying past its prime. There’s a street chase between Fast members just because, as if each film has to have at least one.
It’s odd too, this series built on car porn, trying to keep its audience riveted with winding, sliding subtitles, as if they’ll be too bored reading otherwise. There’s plenty of car-based action, too much really, constant maneuvering to test out some camera avoidance and a bouncy trip down Rio’s streets, all wrapped around some romance and sex appeal. It’s a familiar formula wrapped in something that thinks its smarter than it is, but it’s not. Fun though? Absolutely. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Universal’s AVC encode for Fast Five is a detail-driving machine, glossy and pouring cash from its visible pores. Lots and lots of pores. There are a few close-ups that ruin the fun, either due to a lack of focused light or some minimal focal softness. The rest are striking, pristine, and brilliantly sharp. As these muscle bound brutes get heated, sweat begins pouring, every droplet perfectly resolved.
That’s all in close. At a distance, things change drastically. Jordana Brewster seems to be a victim of some rather glaring smoothing, giving her face a distinctive digital appearance. While a handful of lingering zooms will not leave the crew in the best of light definition wise, Brewster comes in last for some unknown reason. That said, director Justin Lin shoves the camera into the faces of his actors more often than not.
Everything else? It’s a hi-def haven. Black levels never miss an opportunity to leave their mark, adding a true sense of three-dimensions to these flat images. There’s little doubt this was meant to pop and be a showcase, not just something to show off cars. Colors will hit a dominate saturation level, flesh tones bronzed about as far as they’ll go, other primaries lifted with equal force.
Grain is conspicuously absent, although the prior information should indicate there’s no suspicion of foul play. Action, rapid-fire edits, jump cuts, and a constantly moving camera simply keep it on the back burner. Besides, that fine grained stock produces some arresting and beautiful images of Rio, Universal’s encode showing no signs of duress under pressure. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]
This much force being pumped into a subwoofer is rare, Fast Five reference all the way. That’s likely coming as no surprise, the franchise built on being overly loud and obnoxious, but here it’s more than just engines and hip-hop. There’s a legitimacy to the mix, major bucks spent to mix this thing into perfection, and the result was tailor made for this format.
It’s the final action scene that can’t be mentioned enough, a masterpiece of power as that safe crunches all in its path. Cars slam into it, buildings take their fair share of hits, it bounces brutally on the ground, and all the while those surrounds are keeping precise track of where it needs to be. Better yet, this series has finally learned the art of balance, mixing in a multitude of effects flawlessly so they work in tandem.
Fast Five has a little bit of everything, as if towing a safe around Brazil wasn’t smashing the kitchen sink as it is. Gunfights ping with a blazingly crisp high-end, also accompanied by a throbbing bass line. Fisticuffs land with weight, as if Dwayne Johnson’s WWE-ready build wasn’t enough power visually.
Of course, there’s that whole opening train heist too, panning camera angles challenging the audio mix to keep up. It does. Imagine an audio mix and Hollywood summer visual flair at war with each other to see which one can beat the other into submission. The audio track wins. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
Much of the extras menu is packed with stuff destined for Universal’s U-Control picture-in-picture stuff, so you can watch it either way. There’s eight featurettes in all, focused on: Diesel’s character, Walker’s character, Johnson’s character, the safe heist, train heist, the team/casting, and the cars. All together, it’s roughly 45-minutes or so worth of stuff.
There’s some raw behind-the-scenes footage of Lin being precise in his direction during a practice run properly called On the Set, and Tyrese TV gives a look at on-set happenings from Gibson’s POV. Justin Lin will offer up a solo commentary (really, none of the cast offered to join in?), followed up with a short selection of deleted scenes (two minutes) and a gag reel. BD-Live and D-Box support are left. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]
Note: Timestamps are based on the unrated cut which is all of one minute longer.