by M. Faust
There are stupid movies that you enjoy, and stupid movies that just rub you the wrong way. I’ve been thinking about that distinction since seeing this new entry in the Fast and the Furious series, which falls into both camps. Enjoyably stupid movies are made with tongue somewhat in cheek: Yes, the filmmakers are saying, we know this is preposterous and unbelievable, so let’s all just have fun with it. At the other end are the filmmakers who seem to regard their audiences as idiots with wallets, whose understanding of the laws of physics is derived from playing video games. Not having been a fan of the previous films in this series, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it for its spectacular stunts and action scenes. But an awful lot of it is utterly stupid.
For example, if you want me to believe that a flatbed truck can drive parallel to a speeding train, and remain steady enough that men standing on it can break into the train, at the very least show me the driver struggling to hold his position. If you want me to have any kind of sympathy for our “heroes,” don’t open the movie by showing them causing a bus wreck that is likely to have killed any number of passengers. And don’t even ask about the finale, which would have been much more enjoyable if it weren’t so utterly implausible.
I didn’t see the last one (Fast and Furious), and this is not one of those sequels that bothers to bring the uninitiated up to speed. Suffice to say that the characters played by Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are now in Brazil, where circumstances compel them to plot a robbery of a local crimelord who has cash reserves of $100 million.
It improves substantially when it turns into a caper movie, more Donald E. Westlake than Oceans 11, both because it cuts down on the endless car scenes and because it brings in a wider group of characters, some or all of whom were apparently in earlier F&F entries. (I especially enjoyed Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson.)
On the other hand, Vin Diesel has clearly not been spending his off hours studying acting. I give him five years before he ends up in a roadshow production of The Addams Family as Uncle Festus. Still, the script treats him better than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who as an FBI troubleshooter has to spout a lot of overwritten tough-cop dialogue while treating the local police with the kind of warm respect (“Stay the fuck out of my face”) that so endears America to the rest of the world.
Fast Five is an efficient money-making machine produced by people who are very good at some aspects of filmmaking and hopeless at others. Is it too much to ask that in the future they might team up with filmmakers who possess the skills they lack? Call me a dreamer.
Watch the trailer for Fast Five
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