Review: FAST & FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 2 May 2011

Review: FAST & FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

It has been ten years since 2001's THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS made a surprise impact in the box-office and succeeded in launching a popular franchise that spawned three sequels (2003's 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, 2006's THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, and 2009's FAST & FURIOUS). And yet, the franchise never calls it a quit. After the open ending in FAST & FURIOUS that suggested there will be more to come, one might wonder just how many times the filmmakers can repeat the same formula over and over again? The answer is: tweak the formula a bit and make it grittier than usual. That's what returning director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan has set out to do for FAST & FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST (known in U.S. as FAST FIVE), a tonally different movie than what you normally expect in the past. Instead of a same old story about illegal street racing, this fifth entry switches gear into a heist movie. The good news is, FAST & FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST succeed better as the best action movie of all the previous entries. But the bad news is, Justin Lin and Chris Morgan still doesn't learn a thing or two about consistency and subtlety.

Picking up directly where the ending in FAST & FURIOUS left off, we learn that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been sentenced for 25 years to life. En route to the prison on a transport bus, Brian (Paul Walker) and Dominic's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) staged a daring bust to free him. The plan is naturally succeed, and they quickly disappeared to Rio de Janiero. Once there, they reunite with an old friend Vince (Matt Schulze) where they are residing in a slum neighborhood. Vince offers them a lucrative job for an ambitious robbery to steal three high-end sports cars from a moving train. But it turns out that it's more than the cars they just stealing. Apparently one of the cars belongs to Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a powerful and ruthless drug dealer, and it contains a precious computer chip that has the information about his operation and where he stashes his money. During the first 15 minutes, the movie is a spectacular entertainment with top-notch action sequences and amazing stunt work (the vertigo scene where Dominic and Brian jumps off from the leaping car is especially edgy).

So far so good, but once the proper plot starts to unwind, the movie becomes bumpy. What follows next is a sluggish second-act that is shamelessly inspired by OCEAN'S ELEVEN (2001) minus the slick undertones. After the daring train heist, Dominic and Brian eventually find themselves with bigger problem as U.S. federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and local officer Elena Reves (Elsa Pataky) are hot on their trail to hunt them down at all cost. On the other side, Dominic and Brian are happy to learn that Mia is pregnant. It's time for them to settle down but not until Dominic has decided to pull off one last job to buy their freedom once and for all -- by staging a heist of robbing Reyes' 100 million dollars in cash. He knows that three of them alone can't do the job, so they assemble a crew of trusted buddies from the previous FAST & FURIOUS series including smooth-talker and con artist Roman (Tyrese Gibson), no-nonsense mechanic and safecracker Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), cool-looking Han (Sung Kang), quarrelsome mechanics Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar), and sexy Gisele (Gal Gadot). With all of them in place, they devise a plan for the heist except it's going to be a suicide mission since all the money have moved to Rio's largest police station, where the cops are on Reyes' payroll.

No doubt the second act suffers from a sluggish pace to a near standstill. There are just too many things happen in the movie that Justin Lin and Chris Morgan could have opted for a more streamlined narrative instead. At an overbearing 130 minutes, the movie is sometimes laborious to sit through. As with the previous entries, the characters are virtually more of the same -- strictly one-dimensional, that is -- and there's hardly any improvement in term of better acting skills.

Still the final third act manages to end up with a hugely satisfying payoff after a less-than-enthusiastic setup. The climactic car chase that tore half the city block of Rio (which rivaled the one in 2003's BAD BOYS II) is by far the most spectacular action set-piece you've ever seen in the franchise. Make no mistake, that scene alone is worth the price of admission but it could have been expanded more.

Likewise, technical skills are top-notch in the hands of Justin Lin, who is fast becoming one of the most sought-after young talents in crafting a hard-hitting action genre. FAST & FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST may have been suffered from incoherent pacing but the movie remains a true-to-form popcorn movie. Stick around for the after-credits, because there is a secret ending where it involves an uncredited cameo from 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS character of Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) and the resurrection of a certain character from the past series that leads to a sixth installment.

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