When the law finally caught up with outlaw Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), even though he was responsible for catching a major villain, he was put away for twenty-five years to life for all his past misdemeanours. However, his complicated relationship with the cop who tried to catch him, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), resulted in him leaving his badge behind and taking Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) with him on a mission to liberate him from the prison bus escorting him to jail. There was a crash, Dom was freed, and off the trio went to Brazil. But one U.S. officer, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), was not having that...
It's a curious state of affairs when the fifth entry into a movie franchise is the one which finally gets the formula right, but Fast Five was one such case. That did not mean what had gone before was dismissed outright, as writer Chris Morgan's script built on the previous four so that there was a great deal of continuity with them, in a way that if you had been a fan and appreciated their adventures, even the third instalment, then you would react with glee that each of those were referenced here with recurring characters. Which was all very well, but as successful as these movies were Fast Five was not resting on any laurels, and worked hard to supply the high octane thrills it had only intermittently achieved.
Nobody was going to mistake a Fast & Furious flick for high art, and thankfully the filmmakers were under no illusions so the mix as before, a bit of drama, a spot of comedy, and a lot of action and male bonding was what they came up with yet again, but unexpectedly for a series which looked out of its depth when trying not to be shallow you genuinely felt as if they had a history together, which they did, but with its "let's get the gang back together one more time" plotting there was an appeal here the other episodes lacked. Sure, it was all about the cars driven at high speeds for the setpieces, but a fresh rapport between the players delivered amusement and camaraderie now the undercover cop nonsense was out of the way.
Besides, Vin had perfected a new expression for this entry, a look of tough approval which he deployed at every opportunity, which given the amount of times he got to survey his buddies and their antics like a proud den mother was just as well. Of course, the homoerotic tension between Dom and Brian had to ease off considerably when it turned out early on that Mia was pregnant with Brian's baby, but cannily this was replaced with a hate/love connection between Dom and Hobbs: they got to tussle and stand intimidatingly close to each other, close enough to kiss, and finally came... To a resolution, that is, that they might be on opposite sides of the law, but they could reach a truce of sorts, all thanks to the actual bad guy who the team battle in Rio de Janeiro.
He was Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a big cheese in the Brazilian capital who gives the people just enough to make them dependent on him, all the better for exploiting his public. After rubbing up Dom's guys and gals the wrong way in a spectacular stunt sequence involving a train and some cars, they opt to get their revenge by taking him to the cleaners, but taking its cues from the Ocean's Eleven series Toretto assembles a group of his old allies, and some of Brian's as well, for a complicated heist. Not so complicated that we can't follow it, but enough that when the big reveal arrives we can admire their cunning. With a lot more self-indulgent humour this time around (Tyrese Gibson making the most of that especially) the atmosphere was one of some old hands settling down to have fun, so even the odd sad scene didn't interrupt the flow of the hijinks. Capping it off with an excellent chase through the streets with a large safe dragged behind two powerful cars, Fast Five may have been glossy, but it scrubbed up nicely. Music by Brian Tyler.