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Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.39.47 PMDirector: Justin Lin

Writer: Chris Morgan

Toretto’s Crew:

Vin Diesel: Dominic Toretto

Paul Walker: Brian O’Conner

Jordana Brewster: Mia Toretto

Tyrese Gibson: Roman

Ludacris: Tej

Matt Schulze: Vince

Sung Kang: Han

Gal Gadot: Gisele

Tego Calderon: Leo

Don Omar: Santos

Good Guys (cops):

Dwayne Johnson: Hobbs

Elsa Pataky: Elena

Bad Guys:

Joaquim de Almeida: Reyes

Michael Irby: Zizi

As with all of the movies in this franchise, this one defies the laws of physics, travels in time, warps reality, and puts its stars–unscathed–through car crashes that would turn mere human beings into crimson stains on the pavement. Unlike the first four installments, however, this one actually works, and appeals to a more varied demographic than juvenile male motorheads.

This movie begins where Fast & Furious left off: with O’Conner (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Leo and Santos (Tego Calderon and Don Omar) chasing the corrections bus on which family head Dom (Vin Diesel) is on his way to prison for life. How do they free him? By causing the bus to flip and roll eleventy gazillion times. Of course, Dom is entirely uninjured, and no one is killed, despite all of the prisoner inhabitants of the bus having no seatbelts, and being chained to their bus seats.

Shift scenes to Brazil where Dom, O’Connor and Mia (O’Connor’s lover and Dom’s sister) are riding on a bizarrely skeletal 4WD vehicle with several other criminals. The job? To steal three expensive sports cars–including an original Ford GT40–from a moving train, such cargo being guarded by three DEA agents in spiffy suits. This they manage by driving headlong across desert terrain that is miraculously smooth as glass. Long action scene short, they succeed, but they’re double crossed, and the evil Zizi–Michael Irby–Reyes’ (Joaquim de Almeida) main henchman, kills the three DEA guys, which of course, is blamed on Dom and company.

This leaves Dom, Mia and Brian destitute, and worse, Hobbs and his posse, the best of the best, are in Brazil tracking Dom. Hobbs works for the Diplomatic Security Service or some similar federal agency that has nothing whatever to do with tracking fugitives, but hey, this movie is the best of the bunch thus far, who so cares? Joining his posse is local Rio rookie cop Elena (Elsa Pataky), who was chosen as a translator because her husband, pretty much the only honest cop in Rio, was assassinated, and so she felt honor bound to become a cop in his stead. She is, of course, beautiful and sultry. Hobbs is long on muscle, scowls, barked commands, and general badassery, and continues the tradition of the franchise of having dialogue that won’t come close to filling an index card for each scene. No long nights memorizing dialogue for this cast.

To clear his name, Dom must get the bad guys and prove he didn’t kill the DEA agents, and the way to do that is to rip off and kill Reyes, the evil bad guy who really runs and corrupts Rio. To do this, Dom must assemble a large crew, and take down one of Reyes’ operations, burning up a large pile of money. Reyes then takes all of his money–only about $100 million, an oddly small amount for a man essentially running a country–and puts it in a high-tech vault in police headquarters, as Dom knew he would all along. In the meantime, Reyes men hunt for Dom and his people to kill them, and there is quite a bit of gunplay here and there.

Amazingly, Dom’s crew has a vault identical in every respect to the one in police headquarters delivered as a model to work on. This is particularly amazing in that we’re not talking about just the vault door, but an entire, huge, heavy, steel box with the door installed. The fact that vaults tend to be built of heavy and thick concrete and steel on site with a door attached doesn’t matter. Obviously, this vault is a popular, off-the-shelf, in-stock item at the Evil Criminal Mastermind/Corrupt Police Supply Company. The plot needs two identical, massive vaults, so it gets them.

This is where Gisele’s (Gal Gadot, an Israeli model) talents come in. Dressed in a bikini, she slinks onto Reyes’ lap and gets him to put his hand on her ass so they can use his palm print, somehow developed from the material of her bikini, to open the real vault. I know. Just roll with it.

In the meantime, Dom has a steamy–not really sexual–scene with Elena, where she obviously falls for him–he speaks more than three words in a row; how can any woman resist that?–and as the team is heading out to do the heist, Hobbs and his posse raid their lair and he and Dom beat each other nearly senseless, but Dom, holding a wrench, symbolically does not brain Hobbs with it, thus proving that Dom has learned that it’s not good to brain people with wrenches, and he really isn’t all that bad a guy for his previous braining. This is about as deep as this franchise gets.

This puts Dom and his crew in handcuffs, and as they’re being transported somewhere, Reyes’ evil crew ambushes them, killing nearly everyone, except Hobbs, who is injured and nearly senseless, and Elena, who frees the good bad guys, who take up arms and kill all the rest of Reye’s bad guys, except Zizi, and rescue Hobbs. In the shootout, Vince (Matt Schulze) is shot and killed, providing even more motivation for Dom to get Reyes.

This leads to a tense and meaningful scene back at the lair where the rest of the crew says: “Hey man, the cops know we’re coming. We can’t do this. It’s suicide, man!” And Dom replies: “I’m doing it myself if I have to.” I know. You could have written that dialogue. Your dog could have written that dialogue. And of course, Hobbs volunteers to go with Dom, and all the rest of the crew is encouraged, and it’s on.

Oh, before we get to the final action scene, there was an earlier scene where the crew steals four Rio police cars, so what do they do? Lay low? Maintain a low profile? Noooooooo! The four of them engage in a drag race for several miles down a Rio main street. In police cars, one with the lights flashing. Of course, this does not draw the attention of the police.

The final chase scene involves Brian and Dom, each driving a black Dodge Charger with heavy-duty winches mounted on the rear bumpers–hooking up to the vault door, and pulling the entire vault out of the police department, and the chase is on. Using the vault like a sort of medieval mace, they smash virtually all the police chasing them, but they’re all corrupt, so that’s OK.

What’s that you say? How did they manage to pull the vault out? Well, it obviously weighs huge numbers of tons and is cemented into the building, but the Chargers are probably about 300 horsepower each, but their wheels can’t possibly produce sufficient traction to remove the vault, but they smoke their tires for awhile and do it anyway because its in the script. Quit complaining. It’s actually a very good and well-filmed action sequence, as long as you know nothing about physics and ignore the fact that Sir Isaac Newton ever lived.

In the end, Dom manages to squash the car in which Zizi and Reyes are riding like a bug, but they survive and Zizi is about to shoot Dom when–aw, I can’t give it all away. Hobbs shoots Reyes dead, and lets Dom go, but promises to come after him again.

And the money? Hobbs opens the vault, and—it’s gone! He thinks that ironic and laughs and laughs, ha-ha! See the movie to see how they did the switch. It’s actually reasonably clever, if not terribly plausible. Justin Lin as Director and Chris Morgan as writer did the two movies prior to this one, and I guess the third time is a charm. Production values are up to contemporary standards, and the acting is done as well as this kind of movie requires, which is relatively little acting at all.

The characters are still stereotypes and very predictable. One can see more character development in time-lapse photography of plants growing. There is the obligatory scene of a large number of street racers with many sleek, slender, beautiful girlfriends and constant closeups of their undulating, slinky hips, mostly for its own sake.  Between Dom and Hobbs, there is sufficient frowning, scowling, grimacing and grunting for twenty movies.

This script does make a few attempts to humanize the characters, all of which go their respective ways with about $10 million each. Mia’s breasts seem to have shrunk back to normal size. In the last movie, she was in pushup bra/low neckline territory, but here, she’s pregnant by Brian, so apparently must be a little less provocatively dressed as befits her coming motherly status.

How does the movie end? Brian and Dom are racing, mano y mano. Morgan and Lynn just can’t help themselves. Despite being dangerous felons who destroy pretty much everything within the blast radius of a nuclear bomb wherever they go, Dom and Brian and Mia have established themselves as good guys, in a Robin Hoodish sort of way, and are set for life. Yeah. Sure.

Oh yes, Han (Sung Kang) returns, but does relatively little. Perhaps he is still tired from being killed five years earlier in Tokyo Drift, a city he has not yet–in the world of the franchise–apparently visited.

What ultimately makes this movie work is the fact that it is a heist movie that relatively cleverly works in fast cars, wild action sequences and beautiful women as integral and at least minimally plausible parts of the heist, rather than a movie built entirely on overgrown adolescents driving fast and destroying every car in sight to no particular purpose. It is more toward James Bond than Speed Racer. The first five movies have made one thing very clear: without Diesel, and to a lesser degree, Walker, this franchise does not work.

And work this movie does. On a production budget of $125 million, it has made more than $630 million worldwide. A large part of that was doubtless due to location shooting. Multiple closeup helicopter passing shots of the iconic Christ statute in Rio makes clear the location.

Overall, this movie is an entertaining action film that actually manages a few clever plot twists to make up for all of the improbable and impossible plot elements. It’s the best of the bunch thus far.

My reviews on the movies so far can be found here:

The Fast And The Furious (2001)

2Fast 2Furious (2003)

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Fast & Furious (2009) 

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