There can’t be many film series’ that by the fifth instalment actually start to show signs of improvement but this is most definitely the case with Fast & Furious 5 (or Fast Five or Fast & Furious: Rio Heist whatever you want to call it!). The Fast And The Furious franchise has always been little more than a guilty pleasure, it’s dumb, brainless entertainment; fun at the time but instantly forgettable. With this latest chapter in the series available on Triple Play Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 5th September, director Justin Lin has managed to pull off something quite extraordinary, a sequel that actually betters all that have come before.
Kicking off where the previous episode ended former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) break ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of custody before fleeing the United States to Rio de Janeiro. Once in Brazil they fall foul of a corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) leaving O’Conner and Torretto no choice but to assemble their elite team of top racers to pull one last job in order to gain their freedom.
Unbeknownst to O’Conner and Toretto, hard nosed federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is hot on their trail after being assigned to track them down and return them to theUS to face trial.Hobbs and his strike team launch an all-out assault to capture them but as his men tear through Brazil,Hobbs learns he can’t separate the good guys from the bad. Now, he must rely on his instincts to corner his prey, before someone else runs them down first.
For a franchise that was built around the world of illegal street racing there is actually very little time spent on the subject in this latest instalment. Instead, director Lin, responsible now for three episodes of the franchise, eschews the quarter mile races in favour of an action driven, heist plotline with elements of The Fugitive and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job, in fact when the film was released in cinemas earlier this year a number of reviews pointed out that the screenplay was most likely a re-working of the now abandoned Italian Job sequel The Brazilian Job. It’s easy to see how this might be the case as the film follows a lot of similar beats to the Mark Wahlberg film with the warehouse training ground and team dynamic playing a much bigger role
The fourth film in the series, 2009’s Fast & Furious, reunited members of the cast from the original film and proved to be a huge success taking more money at the box office than any of the previous films in the series. With this fifth episode, Lin has taken the casting up a notch and invited back almost all the major players from all four previous instalments. Joining series regulars Diesel, Walker and Brewster are Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon and Don Omar.
The large ensemble cast really adds to proceedings as each member of the team gets almost equal screen time to showcase their particular skills, it is here that the film most often resembles The Italian Job. As the team assembles, each character is given the chance to shine be it as a safe cracker, smooth talker, explosives expert or simply just a hot chick in bikini able to procure a palm print needed to unlock a safe. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in this kind of film but the mismatched team create some fine banter and memorable dialogue.
The film’s real ace up its sleeve is in the casting of former wrestling superstar Dwayne Johnson. After languishing in a string of kid friendly comedies such a The Game Plan and The Tooth Fairy, his role here is more the kind of character he was born to play. With a “take no shit” attitude and some of the snappiest dialogue in the film he is a real standout. A sort of cross between Tommy Lee Jones’ US marshal Gerard in The Fugitive and a brick shithouse, Johnson takes charge of every scene he’s in and more than makes up for the fact that the main villain of the film, played by Joaquim de Almeida, is dull, clichéd and totally forgettable. With Johnson pitched against Diesel it leads to a more interesting confrontation of personality versus brawn.
2009’s Fast & Furious relied heavily on CGI enhanced action and while it was reasonably well done and led to some stand out sequences, in particular Diesel dodging an out of control fuel tanker, it was a shame to see an over reliance on special effects over physical stunt work. Lin has obviously realised this mistake and as a result Fast Five features some of the series’ best action scenes. There is still some computer manipulation but it is subtly done and the film is all the better for it.
The film features two major action set pieces which set the bar very high for any future instalments and leave a trail of destruction on a scale that would make Michael Bay proud. Speaking of further sequels, of which clearly there will be, make sure you don’t miss the post credits tease which brings back two more major players missing from this episode to set up an intriguing plotline for Fast Six which will more than please fans of the franchise.
Having been a fan of the Fast & Furious films from the beginning I am probably a little biased in my review. I was always looking forward to Fast Five particularly because of the major cast reunion and the inclusion of Dwayne Johnson. Lin’s wise decision to drop the street racing is definitely in the films favour giving it a much broader appeal. It is no surprise that this has proven to be the most successful episode at the box office and in a year dominated by sequels it is refreshing to find one that actually improves on previous instalments to deliver the best yet.
As you would expect for a modern film the Blu-ray presentation is very good. Extremely clear picture and a suitably bombastic soundtrack. The locations are nicely filmed with the majority of the action taking place in full daylight making the most of the permanently sunny Rio setting, the cars all look and sound spectacular and the numerous shoot outs make full use of the surround speakers placing you in the centre of the action.
Two cuts of the film are included on the disc, the original theatrical version and an extended version running a full 60 seconds longer! To be honest I really couldn’t tell the difference and did not notice any extra scenes in the extended cut. The majority of the extras are relatively short re-caps on character development through the series and introductions to the new characters. Despite there being a good number of special features, it’s mostly standard EPK that lacks any real substance. The full list of extras included on the Blu-ray are as follows:
- Theatrical Feature with Commentary with Justin Lin
- Extended Feature with Commentary with Justin Lin
- Picture In Picture
- Deleted Scenes
- A New Set Of Wheels
- Dom’s Journey
- Brian O’Conner: From Fed To Con
- Enter Federal AgentHobbs
- Inside The Vault Chase
- Reuniting The Team
- The Big Train Heist
- Dom VsHobbs
- On Set With Justin Lin
- Tyrese TV
- Pocket Blu app
Film – 4 out of 5
A wise decision to drop the street racing element and focus on a heist combined with bringing back favourite characters from the series make this the best yet.
Visuals – 4 out of 5
It’s a great looking film making the most of the stunning locations.
Audio – 4 out of 5
For best results turn it up loud to fully enjoy the engines, gunfire and explosions.
Extras – 3 out of 5
Fair selection of extras with an extended version of the film included but the special features lack any real substance.
Presentation – 4 out of 5
Triple play edition features everything you could want. A Steelbook edition is welcome and look out for a wheel shaped boxset featuring the whole series.
Overall – 4 out of 5
A major step up from the last two instalments and the best in the series so far gets a decent presentation on Blu-ray.
Fast & Furious 5 is available on Blu-ray from tomorrow.
This article was first posted on September 4, 2011