Once upon a time, Morpiedra promised the editor a brief write-up about Fast5. A million years later, the article still hasn’t happened. Having recently gained access to HBO, I stumbled on this movie among the OnDemand choices and finally got a chance to watch it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen all of the films in this franchise. Also, I’m unashamed to say that I like most of them. Maybe it’s because the films are popcorn fare, so they get a pass. Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked cars. I was never a tuner, but anyone else frequent New Carrolton Metro in the early 2000s? Maybe it’s because, as an Asian American man, I’m always hoping for more POC (people of color) on the silver screen. So while Morpie (pronounced more-pee) roams the great yonder doing his hermit thing, I’m taking the reins of this write up as well as stealing a page from his book (with his blessing) to scribble five thoughts on Fast5 (Justin Lin, 2011). Enjoy.
1. I’m going to assume that you’ve already seen this film or that if you haven’t, it’s because you don’t care for it at all. If you have no interest in the film, you won’t be upset with the sparse spoilers below. Let’s assume that you know that Fast5 is an action flick, the latest in a franchise launched by that 2001 street-opera-cum-Point-Break-knock-off + Vin Diesel star-vehicle The Fast & The Furious (Cohen, 2001). Let’s assume that you know that the FF films loosely revolve around street racing with import tuner sensibilities. If you’ve heard of the films at all, you might want to check out an actual review/discussion of Fast5 on The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons. The podcast episode is about as old as the film, but is worth a listen. Simmons’ series is mainly about sports, but it periodically dedicates episodes to cultural items like The Real World and The Wire with guests. In this case, the polarizing Adam Carolla dissects Fast5 with the host. To paraphrase Adam: this is the one we’ve been waiting for. He’s right. This film has everything that could be asked from a FF film and then some. Their podcast review celebrates the many ways in which Fast5 is great, but also has no problem laughing at all the ways in which the film is ridiculous. If you loved Lin’s film so much that you can’t bear to acknowledge/address its ridiculousness, save yourself some teeth-gnashing and move on. Like Bill and Adam, I hope they keep making FF films forever. I’m throwing in my vote in for “Sexy6” as the title of the next one (thanks Sharon!), and you know Brian and Mia’s baby will be in the franchise reboot.
2. Fast5 is not, strictly speaking, a racing film. Sure, the film contains many a car-involved spectacle. It even throws in a drag race for good measure. This is just narrative dressing. The cars and car racing are really just part of a familiar backdrop for the ensemble cast. This is a heist film. Fast5’s caper serves as a vehicle to deliver both action-genre theatrics and that other thing which still speaks to fans of this franchise: some fuzzy notion of family (or at least an alternative family). Yeah, this family is nothing but a redressed reduction of the action/adventure stock plot mechanisms. It’s fleshed out about as much as can be expected. Still, it provides familiar thematic stomping grounds from the other films (as does that Charger). Oh, and there’s nostalgia. Justin Lin brings back several characters from the previous films, assembling them as the “multi-culti” alt-family of the original. This one certainly feels like a FF family reunion. Notable returning cast members include two original characters who were (mostly) MIA from the other sequels: Mia Torreto and Vince (Jordana Brewster and Matt Schulze). Also on the “team” are 2 Fast 2 Furious’ Roman Pearce and Tej Parker (Tyrese Gibson and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang) from Tokyo Drift and Leo and Santos (Tego Calderón and Don Omar) from Fast and Furious (4). I’m not sure how this many characters could have been housed in a non-heist narrative. Maybe they’ll make Fast and Furious the horror spin-off.
3. No. Of course I didn’t forget Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot). We saw her last in FF4 as Dom’s ill-matched love interest. In this film, she’s paired with Han (inasmuch as action-film characters can be paired). If we’re picking stock film characters to crush on, you can keep the manic pixie dream girl. This woman is bad-ass. Also, I have a special place in my heart for interracial couplings in media. Asian dudes have come a long way since the kiss-less Romeo Must Die.
4. Speaking of Asian dudes, Han has come a long way from mercilessly whaling on his cousin in Better Luck Tomorrow. Didn’t Han die in one of the other sequels? Yes. Yes he did, but they can’t make FF films without him. Nor should they.
5. Last but not least, Fast5 features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing DEA hell-hound Luke Hobbs to Vin Diesel’s Dom. Ever wonder what a fight between Diesel and The Rock would look like? Watch the film. While it doesn’t disappoint, I found it a bit underwhelming probably because The Rock looks like he has about 40lbs on Diesel. He also scowls at everyone for most of the film. It’s expected that when watching an action film, you’ll be periodically (if not constantly) reminded of the fact that you’re watching an action film. In a film with insane effects and stunts, this one seemed like an obvious one.