Written by Joe the Revelator
The Fast and the Furious franchise has been hit an miss with me from the beginning. I enjoyed the first one when it came out because there weren't any big racing movies that involved tuners (foreign automobiles with extensive out-of-factory modifications). I still find neon running lights and kite-sized spoilers obnoxious, but there were a few moments of car talk wedged into the bro-mance between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.
Skip ahead to 2Fast 2Furious, a movie with half the cast of the first; sans the Vin. It sported a lot of American muscle cars, the drug cartel, the undercover cop played by Paul Walker, and some unbelievable street racing. But like so many sequels it lacked the flare (whatever that was) of the original.
There was also Fast and Furious, not to be confused with THE Fast and THE Furious, which felt like the directors tried to remake 2Fast 2Furious by injecting Vin Diesel back into the series. The results were forgettable.
Then there was The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which stars none of the original cast and takes place in a different part of the world, with cars that drift (the tires are intentionally slick/hard so the cars fishtail around corners) instead of drag racing. The formula of "new kid on the racing block" seems to have worked, making Tokyo Drift the most watchable part of the franchise.
The power of five:
So far we have 4 movies, half of which could have been drug-fueled Hotwheels commercials for all I was concerned. In comes Fast Five.
The driving crew for Fast Five, which includes Diesel and Walker, is made up of random characters taken from the last four movies, some of which I'm certain were killed off. Their new goal as fugitives from the American government is find a country with no extradition and begin new, wholesome, law-abiding lives... right after they go on a crime spree in Rio which involves robbing from the biggest cartel in South America.
All seems to be going well until federal agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, manages to catch wind of their impending caper over the smell of his own oiled bicepts and skintight cotton shirts. His mission: To destroy as much public property in the persuit of the car thieves as he can justify to the Diplomatic Security Service.
Why is this movie good?
Rarely do I come right out and ask this, but I've been trying to justify to myself why I sat through Fast Five. Here's the best I can do: Take a heist movie like Ocean's Eleven, put everyone in fast cars, make them drive right up to the vault, add in a few muscle-bound wrestlers on steroids and some gangland style shootouts. Fast Five is a bastard child of every stereotypical guy movie.
That's not to say it should be hailed as the new king of dude-bro-guy flicks. In fact, it barely holds together with so many different elements. But it does hold together, so feel free to give it a try.