Supernatural in its physics-defying physicality, ridiculous to almost pornographic levels and perhaps more entertaining than any 2011 theatrical release so far, Fast Five is the movie that every previous Fast and the Furious movie should've been. Yes, every one of them.
Why? Because, for the first time, this franchise seems comfortable in its own skin. We believe that these ragtag street racers (one of them an ex-cop, of course) have come together in Brazil to pull off a near-impossible heist 'cause director Justin Lin -- calling the shots with confidence and gusto after stalling out with the last two installments -- makes us believe. Finally, we believe in this madcap cartoon world of hot wheels and hot women because, finally, it believes in itself.
Bust Out Of Prison, Blow Stuff Up
Fast Five starts with its foot immediately on the gas, as Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster bust Vin Diesel out of prison, which leads to an "Ocean's Eleven"-style get-together in Rio de Janeiro with the stars of the previous Fast and Furious movies to steal a ton of money from the local crime boss (or something). Meanwhile, an F.B.I. agent that's even more macho and muscular than Diesel (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, ladies and gentlemen) is determined to bring them down, even if it involves blowing stuff up that probably didn't need to be blown up.
Besides the gleefully absurd heights (and depths) of Chris Morgan's gonzo script, the astonishing chase scenes/car crashes/stunt work and the more than satisfactory (and inevitable) extended exchange of fisticuffs between Diesel and Johnson, what might be most enjoyable about Fast Five is watching the cast enjoy themselves so much. All of the returning players -- Diesel, Walker, Brewster, Matt Schulze, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot -- are having so much fun that they sometimes seem a bit perplexed by it all. Did any of them expect this franchise to go this far? There's a self-consciously celebratory tone to Fast Five, something that's been missing from all the previous installments, especially 2009's oddly depressing Fast and Furious.
Don't go looking for anything resembling realism here, and forgive it its half-assed attempts at existential angst, something that Diesel should never be called upon to express. Give in to its brutal brilliance and Fast Five will take you to such joyful places -- and at 200 mph, at that.