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Fast Five
Director: Justin Lin
Screenplay: Chris Morgan (based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson)
Stars: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tej Parker), Matt Schulze (Vince), Sung Kang (Han Lue), Gal Gadot (Gisele Harabo), Tego Calderon (Tego Leo), Don Omar (Rico Santos), Joaquim de Almeida (Hernan Reyes), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Elsa Pataky (Elena Neves), Michael Irby (Zizi), Fernando Chien (Wilkes)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2011
Country: U.S.
Fast Five Blu-Ray
Don’t give me attitude. This is only your first Fast and Furious movie. At one point in Fast Five, the fifth entry in the unexpectedly long-lived car-crash-and-crime series started a decade ago by The Fast and the Furious (2001), one character describes another character as “Old Testament: blood, bullets, wrath of God.” The character being described is Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, a special ops manhunter who is brought in when all other government agencies fail to bring someone in, but it is also an apt description of the movie itself, which works because it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or dress itself up as something that it isn’t. Fast Five, which was directed by series veteran Justin Lin, is a loud, full-throttled, bombastic heist flick with no apologies for its obsessions with speed, violence, intensity, and, most of all (and despite the presence of several significant female characters), the kind of bulging, brawny masculinity we haven’t seen since the heyday of the 1980s “hard body” movies.

Those who have kept up with the series will recognize that Fast Five is a reunion movie of sorts, bringing together different characters from different sequels and assembling them into the cinematic version of a greatest hits package. From Rob Cohen’s original we have the central trio: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a guru racer who has spent most of his life on the run from the law; Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), a former undercover cop who was originally assigned to bring down Toretto but instead got sucked into his world and is now his righthand man; and Mia (Jordana Brewster), Toretto’s sister and Brian’s girlfriend. The majority of the story takes place in Rio de Janeiro, where Toretto decides that the only way for his gang to be truly “free” (that is, not being constantly hunted by international police) is for them to steal $100 million from Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), Rio’s most powerful crime lord who wields not only a personal army of gun-toting thugs from the flavellas, but also most of Rio’s police force, in whose vault he has stashed his money.

As the original movie borrowed heavily from Point Break (1991), so Fast Five borrows from the various Ocean’s movies (take your pick) and all the other variations on the “one last heist” scenario that requires assembling a crack crew of experts that will work together as a perfectly tuned symbiotic whole, which is essentially what returning screenwriter Chris Morgan (who penned the last two sequels) does by raiding the previous films for their surviving characters. From the first sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), we get tech expert Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and the smooth-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson); from the second sequel, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), we get racer Han Le (Sung Kang); Le also appeared in the most recent entry, Fast & Furious (2009), which introduced former Mosssad operative and weapons expert Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot) and the comically squabbling “muscle” guys Tego Leo and Rico Santos (Tego Calderon and Don Omar).

The significant new addition is Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, who is presented as a kind of ying to Toretto’s yang. Both of them are hardened, bulked-up professionals who are equally committed to their causes, which puts them on an obvious crash course (unfortunately, their eventual mano-a-mano smackdown is one of the film’s most rote scenes). Johnson, who has proved over the past decade to be a surprisingly flexible actor who is at home in both loud action movies and comedies, plays Hobbs as a completely humorless bloodhound whose unwavering intensity works as a underlying strain of comic relief. Constantly sweating and so muscular that he looks like he will burst through his shirt at any moment, Johnson barks his lines with singular authority, even when said lines are deliriously ridiculous (when told by an underling that he has good news and bad news, Hobbs snaps, “You know I like my dessert first!”). When Johnson is absent from the screen, the intensity is more than managed by Diesel and Walker, who have developed a relatable chemistry after three outings together. Diesel, who has always been an underrated screen presence, makes Toretto consistently intriguing (he conveys the man’s singular intelligence beneath all that brawn and macho posturing), while age has done wonders for Walker, giving an edge to his boyish good looks that conveys a necessary sense of weariness.

At the core of Fast Five, of course, are the action sequences, which are just as grandiose and explosive as you would expect, starting with a pre-credit bus flip on the open highway and culminating with a positively ludicrous (but undeniably enthralling) chase in which the gang uses two tricked out Dodge Chargers to drag a five-ton safe through the streets of Rio (and through several buildings, dozens of cars, numerous telephone poles, bus kiosks, etc.) with half of the city’s police force in pursuit. The film’s visceral highpoint, however, is a daring heist in which Toretto and company steal expensive cars from a high-speed train by driving a rig up next to the train and unloading them one by one. The heist goes wrong and Toretto ends up saving O’Conner by having him leap from the now flaming rig onto a speeding racecar just before it smashes into a bridge support. The scene culminates with them driving full-speed off a cliff and falling hundreds of feet to the river below, and the manner in which the film conveys the physical presence of the stunt--not manipulated pixels in a computer, but footage of actual objects moving through space at ridiculous speeds--is what makes movies like Fast Five work. They make you feel like you’re in the midst of the chrome and dust and blood, speedfreaking right over the edge.

Fast Five Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Download
The Blu-Ray of Fast Five includes both the original theatrical version and an extended edition.
Aspect Ratio2.35:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • French DTS 5.1 surround
  • Spanish DTS 5.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
    Supplements
  • Audio commentary by director Justin Lin
  • “Dom vs. Hobbs” featurette
  • “On Set With Director Justin Lin” featurette
  • “Inside the Vault Chase” featurette
  • “The Big Train Heist” featurette
  • “Reuniting the Team” featurette
  • “A New Set of Wheels” featurette
  • “Tyrese TV” featurette
  • “Dom’s Journey” featurette
  • “Brian O’Conner: From Fed to Con” featurette
  • “Enter Federal Agent Hobbs” featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Gag reel
  • pocket BLU features
  • DistributorUniversal Studios Home Entertainment
    SRP$34.98
    Release DateOctober 4, 2011

    VIDEO & AUDIO
    Fast Five looks as good on Blu-Ray in this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer as I was hoping. The picture pops off the screen with great contrast, color saturation, and the kind of rich detail that shows off the location photography and the real-life stunts (granted, there is plenty of CGI work, but it is nicely integrated and rarely draws attention to itself). The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtrack is likewise first-rate, with immersive channel separation and a thundering low end for the explosions, gunshots, and crashing vehicles. You couldn’t do better than the train heist or the vault chase scene if you want to impress friends with your home theater setup.
    SUPPLEMENTS
    The supplementary material is appropriately dense, although it consists primarily of featurettes in the 7- to 10-minute range. There is an informative audio commentary by director Justin Lin, a veteran of the series who has plenty to offer in terms of production and technical detail. Lin also appears in the “On Set With Director Justin Lin” featurette, which follows him around the set as he goes about his work. Several of the featurettes that focus on the various characters, including “Dom’s Journey,” “Brian O’Conner: From Fed to Con,” and “Enter Federal Agent Hobbs” feel a bit like filler, but the featurettes that focus on the stunts and special effects are definitely worth watching. I was mesmerized by the behind-the-scenes work in “Inside the Vault Chase” and “The Big Train Heist,” which demonstrate how the majority of the film’s effects were done practically on location with some clever tricks (such as having a cut-down pickup truck inside the vault driving it). Car fanatics with enjoy “A New Set of Wheels,” which highlights each of the new vehicles in the film, most of which were made by Dodge specifically for the production. There are a few other requisite odds and ends on the disc, including two brief and inconsequential deleted scenes and a gag reels.

    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Universal Studios Home Entertainment


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