How to re-ignite an ageing franchise? Drop The Rock on it. The best thing, by far, in Fast Five (aka Fast & Furious 5, aka Rio Heist, aka Who Cares As Long As Things Go Fast), Dwayne Johnson hulks through the movie leaving testosterone trails in his wake. Clad in a flak jacket and a cage-fighter’s beard, he’s the manhunter “the FBI call when they want to catch someone” (which, presumably, is quite often). His body is hard as marble, his mind as sharp as Marple’s. There is literally nothing believable about the character, least of all his Blade Runner tech, yet from the moment he juggernauts on-screen, barking, “Rule number 2: Stay the fuck out of my way!” at a shrimpy South American cop, this quinquel goes from entertainingly stupid to joyously lunk-headed. Think of it as a WWE reboot of Heat — with Vin Diesel as De Niro.
In what may or may not be a reappropriation of the script for The Brazilian Job, the aborted Italian Job sequel, the set-up has Diesel’s Toretto in Rio de Janeiro, assembling a crew for the inevitable one last job. Their plan is to jack a corrupt businessman for $100 million — a sum that, in a film this overblown, seems positively unambitious.
It requires the talents of all the old franchise ‘favourites’, from Tokyo street racer Han (Sung Kang) to mechanic Tej (Ludacris), though the film’s only street race is hastily skipped over. Don’t expect precision-built scheming: the plot is tosh. Instead, prepare for a fiesta of excess, with bikini chicks, hip-hop bangers, meat-headed brawls in warehouses and lines such as, “Nice legs. What time do they open?”
It is not, by any normal criteria, a great film. There are plenty of scenes that clunk. And at over two hours, it’s far too long. But it’s hard not to grin at the go-for-broke spirit — best illustrated by a final chase sequence, involving every police car in Brazil and a city-trashing bank vault, that nearly out-Bad-Boys-2s Bad Boys 2— which makes this fifth instalment the most entertaining in the series. Fast Five turns the dial right up to 12. Because 11 is for pussies.