Because I a) own a Sky dish and b) apparently hate myself, I have seen every film in The Fast And The Furious Quintology (“The Fast And The Furious“, “The Faster And The More Furious“, “The Fastest And The Furiousest” and “The Ludicrously Fast And The Positively LIVID“). I even quite enjoyed one and a half of them. So I’m not speaking from a place of ignorance or sneering middlebrow dismissiveness when I tell you that Fast 5 might be the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen.
And, you know. I’ve seen The Happening.
This is a film where the opening scene sees its protagonists deliberately forcing a fully occupied prison bus into a high-speed crash, causing the bus to roll at least half-a-dozen times. It then shows us a news broadcast from the scene where a reporter tells us with a straight face that “miraculously, there were no fatalities.” Somehow this doesn’t even crack the top three most ridiculous things that happens over the next two hours. If you count the casting of the two leads it might not even make the top five.
Fast 5 stars Vin Diesel as an ambulatory side of beef. Even twelve years ago you’d have charitably described the Vinster as someone whose physicality did most of his acting for him, like mid-period Sly Stallone or any-period Arnie. At this point, Diesel seems to have lost the ability to emote altogether. Now, Diesel might be a dead-eyed mumbling shambles but at least he’s got a modicum of screen presence. This is more than can be said for co-star Paul Walker, a man so utterly lacking in charisma that I kept forgetting his character’s name despite having already seen three films centred on the same character. McSomething? O’Something? And then there’s The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock And Also Pretty Much Currently Known As The Rock, who spends the entire film being gruff, striding purposefully and dripping with a frankly distracting amount of sweat. Seriously, it looks like they were actually hosing the man down with water between takes.
These powerhouse thespians lead us through what’s less a plot and more like a series of things that apparently happen. Halfway through the film it suddenly decides it’s going to be an ensemble heist movie and uses the opportunity to reintroduce such beloved characters as That Guy Who I Think Was In The First One Oh Actually Maybe The Second, One Of The Baddies In Blade 3 Wait Was He In Fast And Furious As Well? and, of course, I’ve No Idea Who That Bloke Is. There’s no easier mark for a good cinematic caper than me (and I’ve got the Gone In 60 Seconds and (bad version of) The Italian Job DVDs to prove it), which is why it’s such a disappointment that Fast 5 makes such a hash of it. When you assemble a team of people who are The Best At What They Do you’re supposed to give us a chance to see each of them Doing the thing that they are Best At! If you don’t, all you’ve done is give yourself a much-too-big supporting cast of borderline-indistinguishable characters who’re now just clogging up screen time that would be better served going to your leads… Oh. Actually, scratch that. Point being, where’s your respect for genre conventions? Further point being where are the montages? I NEED MY MONTAGE.
You know what, though? I didn’t hate it. Fast 5 has the same go-for-broke, throw-everything-at-the-screen attitude as Doomsday. It’s nothing like as good as Neil Marshall’s underappreciated b-movie gem, but in an era when most action movies are nasty, boring or both there’s something to be said for Fast 5’s cheerful live-action cartoon excess. It’s a complete mess but hey, at least it’s an inventive mess. And it might be the film best suited getting some mates together and MST3K-ing the hell out of it since that wildly hilarious ode to Steven Seagal’s towering hubris, On Deadly Ground.