The fifth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise picks up where the fourth left off: Lunkhead street racer/noble criminal antihero Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is on a bus en route to prison; his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and her paramour/sometimes FBI agent, Brian (Paul Walker), are en route to liberate him. Director Justin Lin shows the explosive crash that sends Dom’s bus tumbling, but doesn’t bother sketching Dom’s actual escape—an approach that, like the leaner title, is indicative of the movie to come. Lin has the confidence to ellipses out anything that would only serve to tell us what we already know––that the protagonists are, like, pretty good at stealing cars and racing them––and instead, devotes much screen time to Ocean’s Eleven–style team building and caper plotting peppered with intentionally camp wisecracking. Diesel and Walker’s intense beyond-bromance has always been the subtext of this series, but Five unmistakably ups the sexual tension between all of its greased-up, improbably built male characters––including a hodgepodge of players from previous Fast films and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the crew’s new Fed foil. Five’s few driving set pieces, all economically cut for spectacle over continuity, are pumped to near-Crank levels of absurdity, with Lin transforming his ragtag bunch of fugitives’ superhuman knack for escaping certain death into a running joke. Five‘s often fascinating study in absence over presence extends to the performances. Brewster, Diesel, and Walker have never been able to function as stars outside this series, maybe because their mutual, blank-slate charisma is ideally suited to the Fast films’ insouciant, multicultural, anarchic fantasy (namely, that it’s possible to live completely outside the law and social order if you can drive fast and are ridiculously sexy). Lin’s shameless indulgence in the franchise’s clichés revivifies them.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2011