Fast and Furious Five (Fast Five)
With Fast and Furious Five something different has happened, surprisingly the franchise has changed tact and taken a step up in quality as well as attracting more big names. It's as though it's gaining a new lease of life and with word of a sixth, I am now wondering that a franchise which was struggling to keep going might have just found a new lease of life.
However I'm not here to talk about a sixth or a possible seventh film, I'm talking about Fast Five, or the better title in keeping with the franchise, Fast and Furious Five.
Before they know it they are involved with one of the biggest crime bosses in the region, and not only that but there's a specialist team of American agents hot on their tracks. Hunted from both sides they decide to carry out a dangerous and extremely risky heist that could mean their freedom and their lives.
Fast and Furious is known for lots of fast, tricked out cars, plenty of cool races and action and lately some big CG moments but not forgetting the larger than life, cool and good looking characters. Really though it's all been about the cars, and despite Vin Diesel, the cars have played centre stage.
That was the case until Fast and Furious Five, for this film there's a very palatable shift, and now we're seeing something different in this film and it's a welcome change. It's not overly done to turn existing fans away, but the shift of focus does lift the Fast and Furious franchise into something more.
This fifth film in the Fast and Furious franchise is more about the characters and storyline and becomes much more of a heist and chase film that happens to have some cool cars in it. The film goes some way to build some lasting relationships between more than just the key characters we've seen over the series to date. It's a much more balanced film because of this move and takes it out of its small genre and brings it right into the middle of the action realm. No one can accuse it of being a car film for car nuts anymore.
Not only is the franchise evolving and developing depth but Justin Lin is too for he directs the old and the new well, and provides for some excellent action amongst the drama. Lin is fast pushing to the front of the action directors and he's taking this franchise with him.
Fast and Furious Five delivers a strong storyline that leads well from the last film pulling together a recognisable team for the biggest set-up of the franchise. It's aided by the actors who deliver performances that are more expansive and deeper than we've seen before. Sure it's not Shakespeare but watching the relationships such as the one between Dom and Elena, the policewoman played by Elsa Pataky, we see that the heavy footed style has lifted and the touch is much lighter.
There's some great development and scenes between the two, and the same is true with a number of other characters, but it's not all good for some of that hard work is lost with a rather underused bad guy and the character changes that Luke undergoes for the final act of the film. The latter is the most annoying for me as Dwayne Johnson's character was strong from the beginning and was building as a great adversary, and this turn seemed so sudden and felt so against his character.
The bad guy, played by the very cool Joaquim de Almeida, is pretty flat and underused. There's so much they could do with him and the corrupt police force and yet he's never explored that much and just presented as a standard evil character. The police force themselves are always in the background and portrayed extremely black and white, one good cop, everyone else bad. Simple.
Going back to Dwayne Johnson for a moment, it's very interesting that they've pulled him into the franchise. He's a great choice for the action film and to help with the change of direction, lending some weight to the film, and not just in the muscle department even though he is looking incredibly huge. Until now we've seen Vin Diesel as the big guy of the series and with the arrival of Johnson, aka The Rock, you can see that Diesel is slightly overshadowed by this new character.
Some of this is down to the fact that there's a new strong character who attracts your attention, and some of it is because Johnson is full on throughout the film, it looks like he's breaking a sweat in every scene from flexing, focus and sheer aggression, and with the combative relationship between the two Johnson's character does start to steal the show.
He has some great lines for his character too, which help him a great deal, but so does Diesel and some of the other characters. What is surprising is that it feels more even between them all this time round, it's not the Diesel and Paul Walker show, or just Diesel, more of the characters feel truly involved in the story than we've seen before.
Another big thing to notice with this film is that the use of CG has been pulled right back down and it's hard to notice anything that's been created with computer effects. Everything looks real and practical, but despite those apparent limitations the action sequences are heavily ramped up - the train sequence is pretty exciting and the heist scene itself really does impress, there are some hugely exciting moments there.
It's not just the big action sequences that are exciting though, it's not solely down to the scale of the action that raises the levels in the film, for even the chase sequence between Johnson's and Diesel's team is as exciting as the biggest sequences in the film and all we're seeing here are people running over roofs.
I think it's here where we see just how well Justin Lin is progressing with the action director label, for there's not much to play with here apart from the rather unique physical location and the characters, and this action sequence ends up being one of the most exciting sequences of the film without the spectacle. During the action there's even some progression of a key relationship as well as the key fight sequence with Diesel and Johnson.
There's a strong ending to the film with some real world consequences for the characters, it's a lot tougher for them than we've seen before and you feel that throughout the film.
Oh, and before I sum up, remember to watch the credits for there is a closing scene that brings a couple of surprises, one that's really huge, and together they promise that the next film is going to be pretty big, and from the looks of the set-up here, perhaps vying for the biggest and best of the franchise even after Fast and Furious Five.
If you've always thought that the Fast and the Furious franchise is for car lovers, this is the film that should change your mind. They've successfully moved the franchise towards a action and heist film, setting the franchise for something much more than we've seen before. This is a stepping stone and should they decide to follow it there's a lot of life left in the characters yet.
It's a great storyline that leads well from the last film and does such a great job of trying to bring the series to a new audience, and with the fresh blood in the film there comes a new combative relationship that provides a strong backbone for the film and beyond.
The action has been kept in the film but it's much more varied than before and a lot less CG than we've seen before. We have entire action sequences without cars, and those that have the cars they aren't made as loud and in the fore as before. There's still enough for the car lovers, but the cars aren't dominating for the star status here, and it works well.
It's not easy to disregard this film as just another car film, it's not, it's something more and with some new strong characters, new and improved action sequences, and with the story and the drama having increased, we're looking at a much more rounded film that promises a new spurt from the franchise.