Sunday, May 1, 2011

Five reasons why Fast Five is better than you

I went to see Fast Five on opening night, and let me tell you, I had some pretty high expectations. The trailer was one of the most bad-ass things I'd ever seen. But obviously that's never a sure sign of a good movie (ie Sucker Punch).  But somehow, Fast Five surpassed even my wildest expectations.
Maybe it was the tequila shots I took before. Maybe it was the half-whiskey-half-monster mixture I brought into the theatre with me. Or MAYBE it was because the movie just straight up kicked ass.
I'm going with the latter.


Before I begin, let me just throw this out there. This is a review of action entertainment. So to my hater friends out there, this post probably isn't for you. This blog probably isn't for you. And anything mildly entertaining in life probably isn't for you. So stop reading this and go watch your TiVo'd Bravo and that low-budget Indie film that you think is good because no one else has seen it even though the real reason no one else has seen it is because, well, it's just not that good. 
Good stories get seen. It doesn't matter if it's a blockbuster or The King's Speech. Do you think Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Faust, and the Greek Tragedies were "discovered" after their time? Do you think only a small, counter-culture population supported them? No. They were the most popular pieces of story of their time. That's why they lasted 'till today. Now I'm not trying to say Fast Five is brilliant art that should be cherished for hundreds of years. But I am saying that an 80 million dollar opening weekend, an A Cinescore by critics and an A+ score by viewers, and an 80% on rottentomatoes supports my point more than it supports yours. 

Sorry to everyone else, hopefully that rant weeded the negative energy out. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, how fucking sweet Fast Five was. 

1.  It fully utilized the benefits that can come with a franchise: We know who these characters are. We've seen them fight and grow and win our support across multiple films. Now why is this so important? For both the Fast part and the Furious part. A franchise film can move much, much faster and pack way more action into a smaller amount of time because backstory, exposition, and all those potentially boring yet necessary things in original stories are already taken care of. It's the same reason why pulp fiction is the public's favorite type of reading. The film can rely on the action to drive the story forward without having to sacrifice time to the building of character depth. And boy does Fast five takes full advantage of this. The entire first act is practically one non-stop action sequence.   

That's a whole lot of history. 

2. True Grit: Or at least that's what I like to refer to it as. What I mean by True Grit is that the action was raw. It felt real. The reason Fast Five was so entertaining was the same reason Sucker Punch, for lack of a better word, just sucked. Action for action's sake doesn't work. It needs to be close to the characters. Not three levels of fantasy world away or whatever the fuck that was. The action doesn't have to be realistic (and is far from it in most action movies today), BUT the audience MUST believe in the danger and the stakes.   Fast Five utilized this best by avoiding CGI as much as possible. We could feel the stunts. The cars. The explosions. The gunfire. The punches. It was up-close and personal, the in-your-face kind of action that I miss about the 80's and  90's action era. CGI has proven the death of many an action film (The A-team, Sucker Punch, and a thousand others come to mind). 
And it's not just me that holds this opinion. Straight from the mouth of a Universal Exec at the head of the making of Fast Five: 
Our strategy behind one of the biggest bets we've ever made is that the business has gone so far towards CG action every weekend, that we really believe creating a movie with real action and real cars will be amazing stuff to people excited by seeing something real.

3. Personal Stakes: Let me take a minute to name some of the conflicts that we will be seeing during this Summer Blockbuster season. Alien Demi-God vs. crazy metal thing but on Earth (Thor). Mutants vs. Fidel Castro (X-Men First Class). Scrawny guy turned superhuman vs. Nazi Zombies (Captain America). Pirates vs. Walking Dead or Mermaids or whatever the hell that movie will be about (Pirates of the Caribbean). Kids vs. crazy alien mutant mystery thing (Super 8). Cowboys vs. Aliens (No, seriously, that's actually the title). 

If my point hasn't gotten through to you yet, it's that in a season where every action flick available to go see is some high-concept out-of-this-world fantasy or graphic novel based film, it's refreshing to see a movie where the stakes are smaller. People vs. other people. A couple characters who are just trying to get some money and get out before it's too late. There's no saving the world. No aliens. No zombies. No superpowers. It ties in to the last point. Fast Five, despite it's ridiculousness, can stay grounded because of the simplicity and closeness of the stakes. 
Not gonna lie: Cowboys vs. Aliens has me stoked

4: Keeping it fresh: Fast Five gives us something fresh from the franchise. Unlike The Hangover II, which literally looks like the exact same movie as the first except in Bangkok (Check the middle section to see for yourself), Fast Five completely changes gears (ha, get it?) and gives us a different type of story than we are used to with the franchise. This movie is not about street racing. Even though the first FATF was about a cop trying to solve a series of heists, it was the street-racing world that came first. As great as it was, the franchise has played it out. Fast Five puts us somewhere new and dangerous and turns itself into an action-heist movie where the characters are trying to stay one step ahead. It's Cat vs. Mouse vs. some other crazy fucking animals. The movie found a balance between new and old. The core feel of their world still feels legit since there's a shit-ton of awesome car scenes relying on the characters' driving skills, but it drives a different type of story. 
And it wasn't just the story that was fresh. It had some of the best action sequences, car chases, foot chases, and straight up full-fledged street warfare scenes I've seen in a while. 
Oh, and did I mention Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson?!?! I mean c'mon. The movie was failsafe from the start. I think the only thing that could have made this movie any sicker was a rock-bottom to Vin Diesel through one of those Favela rooftops. 

Did I mention it was awesome?

5. Fast Five knows what it is: If you saw the movie, or just watched the above clip, it's pretty self-explanatory. We know this film isn't trying to break new cinematic ground or change your life or make you cry or shatter your world-view. This film knows it isn't trying to do that. It knows what we are expecting. We know what we are expecting. And that's why I can sit through the cheesy one-liners and ridiculous stunts and still love this movie. This film knows we are familiar with its diegesis and knows the type of entertainment it provides and thus can almost mock itself and push the limits and give us a truly fun theatre experience, which is really really rare these days. I loved the explosions of applause and hooting during certain scenes of the flick. Everyone in that theatre embraced the unbelievable chaos. 
Before beginning to try my hand at an action spec a few months ago, I asked my close friend Will what makes an awesome action movie. His answer was something along the lines of: Fast cars, Fast girls, Fast fights, and a lotta shit blowing up. It might sound mindless, but man does he know what he's talking about. The last section of another post, despite trying to figure out whether this makes the movie good or bad, nails what I'm trying to say. As the author, Daniel O'Brien puts it: 
So here we are. The big movie that kicks off the summer blockbuster season is just cars, punches, jump-punches, butts, one-liners, jumping, butt-jumps, leaping-quips, butt-carring and punch-punches. That's why I can't tell if this is an action movie or a parody of action movies or what. I ask people who want to see this movie if they're going ironically or because it genuinely looks good, and no one knows. It feels like there's a joke somewhere, but no one can find it. Meanwhile it's getting great reviews.
Daniel misses the point even though he's standing right on top of it. Because it's the fifth in a franchise, it can push itself and make fun of itself while still being an action movie.

But my favorite quote from his piece, while breaking the trailer into five categories: Cars, One liners, Girls, Punching, and People recklessly jumping off of things.
Jumping is the solution when punching isn't an option, which it always is, which is why the trailer also features a sequence where The Rock jump-punches someone.
 See, now he's onto something.  

Damn I loved this movie. I could try and analyze it with 5 more reasons (easily), but it really just comes down to that intrinsic infatuation for ridiculous action. I'm a true product of the 90's. Now go see it!

Need I say more? 


All in all, Fast Five is what we in the business like to call the MOTY (coined by William Rippetoe). Before you throw me to the wolves, allow me to explain what that means so you realize it's about as serious as this movie. The MOTY, without getting to in detail on the intricate complexities of the term (and yes it has been discussed way too extensively), started as being a phrase mocking itself by referring to guilty pleasure, critically-bad-but-still-good movies, but has essentially evolved into meaning the best non-serious Movie Of The Year (MOTY). The most entertaining. The coolest. The movie you walk out of being like "Yes that was fucking awesome". If the MOTY was a Counterstrike 1.6 scrim sequence, it would be a five-shot AWP-Deagle combo for the win. And that's what Fast Five is. A straight headshot.
Nuff Said.


  1. hax.
    and moty? sorry but i just got butthurt before you could even hope to explain your case.

  2. So what movie, based on that definition, would you rather give it to?

  3. Wow. I dunno' if Fast Five can live up to that ridiculously entertaining review, Danny, but Universal should kick you some coin because your eloquent lovefest alone has convinced me to go see the damned thing.

    Question... I ashamedly must admit that the only installment I've seen of this series happens to be the one folks seem to consider the most tepid, that being the one with the moniker "Tokyo Drift." (Although, I must say, I actually DID enjoy that film, if only because I had no idea that cars COULD, um, "drift."!)

    So I must ask what is probably a rather idiotic question... will my enjoyment be tainted for my lack of Fast/Furious pre-awareness?

  4. Haha thank you Jeff for the kind words. I'm happy you enjoyed my ramblings. And yes, if only I was getting paid for my blatant marketing.

    Anyways, as far as your question goes, I think you could still thoroughly enjoy the film without the strong nostalgia associated with it (although it definitely added to my enjoyment).

    BUT it will mean some of the inside jokes and references will be missed. It won't really affect your ability to follow the story, but again, the film does assume you to be a little familiar with the character relationships in order to understand their motivations, and the history definitely plays off of the other films. So if you can brush it off and say "Okay, there's probably a reason this person doesn't like that person, or that this guy has a chip on his shoulder from some event", and just go with it, you will for sure be fine.

    IF, by chance, you did have the time to pick just one of the films from the franchise in order to be more in tune for Fast Five, I would highly suggest the first one. Firstly, because it's simply the best , and secondly, most of the character's relationships in this film and the references they make can be traced to the first. The others are forgettable.

    P.S. I liked Tokyo Drift too, even if it was the worst of them. Only because it lost it's cast, so it felt like an action version of "American Pie:Band Camp".
    And the good news is there is a face from Tokyo Drift in Fast Five.