Every couple of months or so, my husband and I play a game called Movie Heaven & Movie Hell- in which we each pick 7 movies we’d love to watch, and 7 films we think will be terrible, then flip a coin to decide which one we’re watching. Yesterday, it was between my ‘Heaven’ choice of City of God and his ‘Hell’ choice of Fast Five.
This night’s Heaven & Hell choices were two films set in Brazil. One’s a hugely acclaimed, hard hitting drama, and the other stars Vin Diesel and The Rock.
Picture it: I balance the two pence piece on my fist and flip it, in slow motion. For a moment, it freezes mid-air, in bullet time, before pinging off into a pile of orphaned socks, closely followed by an intrigued cat. I curse, Colin laughs, I retrieve it, the cat bites me. I flip again, and the Fates, tricksy hags that they are, crimp one off onto our evening’s entertainment. Fast fucking Five.
I’ve seen the original The Fast and the Furious, and it was basically Point Break, but with street racers instead of surfers, and with a bunch of people I couldn’t give a monkeys about instead of Patrick Swayze in a Nixon mask and Keanu Reeves “firing his gun in the air and going ‘aaagh’” (thanks, Hot Fuzz!).
Our main problem with this franchise is neither of us are interested in cars and find the fetishism of them deeply weird. I’m a broke, 29 year old woman. Even if I could afford a car, I’d be terrified of buying one because I don’t know anything about them, other than they go ‘vrooom’ and are good for killing cyclists and children. Plus, I hate driving. HATE it. Anyone who’s had the misfortune to have me as the designated driver on a road trip knows it’s a deeply unhappy experience, punctuated by me muttering ‘fuck fuck fuck FUCK’ for hours on end and hoping I don’t have to park any time soon because I don’t know how to get the unfamiliar hire car into reverse.
And as for Colin… he can’t even drive. He has me to do that for him. The only cars he’s remotely interested in are ones that turn into giant robots or are capable of time travel. He didn’t even drive when we were playing LA Noire. The fact he has no inner Clarkson is one of the things about him that gives me a gigantic wide-on.
So suffice it to say, if the original wasn’t our cup of tea, the prospect of sitting through the fifth in a series of petrol-head films wasn’t making us quiver with delight either. We knew what Fast Five was going to be like. Lots of screeching tyres, girls in denim hot pants, Vin Diesel’s big arms, fade to black.
But wait! According to Wikipedia, Fast Five is an attempt by producers to move the franchise away from the niche of ‘car culture’ (read: flatulent teenage boys who watch Pimp My Ride and save up to put alloys on their shitty Vauxhall Nova) and into the more appealing genre of heist movie. Hey, maybe it won’t be terrible after all! I like The Italian Job and Reservoir Dogs!
Duly innervated by the hope that this wouldn’t be two hours of Hondas zooming down a flyover with Christ the Redeemer in the background, we watched it. Here’s what goes down in funky town:
En route to prison Dom (Vin Diesel) is rescued by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her lover Brian (Paul Walker- if you’ve seen the first movie, he plays the Keanu Reeves character). The three of them scamper off to Rio de Janeiro, where they keep a low profile for approximately 3.7 seconds.
After a train robbery they’re involved in goes pear-shaped, they decide to nick $100m from Mr Reyes, a top crime boss and corrupt businessman (Joaquim de Almeida). You know he’s a bad ‘un because when you first see him he’s wearing a white linen suit, a look only favoured by the truly diabolical.
In the mean time, they’re being hunted not only by Reyes (who wants his sat nav back) but also by Hobbs, a humourless Fed played by The Rock, who ironically is sporting a VERY humorous beard. Hobbs thinks Dom and chums are responsible for the murder of three DEA agents during the aforementioned botched train job, and he’s recruited a recently widowed Rio cop (Elsa Pataky) to help track them down. Are you following all this so far?
In the style of every other heist film you’ve seen, our trio of professional car thieves assemble an ensemble to help with the job. They eschew originality and plump for characters that appeared in other films in the series, which I’ve never seen and never will. They also recruit their old buddy Vince (Matt Schulze), who kinda stitched them up over the train job. The reason they do that is so he can get shot in the stomach and die a hero in the third act. Oops, spoilers!
Now, you and I know that, despite our most optimistic fantasies, I was never going to enjoy Fast Five, so you’ll forgive me if I skip the foreplay and head straight to the point where I insert things into the film’s urethra.
Fast Five’s characters frequently defy logic. For example, Mia, knowing she is pregnant, decides to take part in both an extremely dangerous train robbery and some high speed stunt driving. Does that seem like something a normal person would do? Or is it something that only happens when there’s a film being written by a guy whose main concern is how to fit in the optimum number of explosions before they run out of budget?
She also does a lot of hugging. She’s a compulsive hugger- you could paint her red and call her Elmo. Every scene, she has to hug someone. It’s… awkward looking, like she’s been possessed by the spirit of a baby orang-utan.
More bad characterisation comes in the form of Reyes. He turns up dressed like the Man from Del Monte and proceeds to become the most boring, badly dressed and incompetent movie baddie I’ve seen since the douchebag in Quantum of Solace.
When we first meet him, he’s got Brian and Dom chained up in a dingy, rusty looking room that screams ‘torture chamber’.
“Ooh, he’s bad innee?” you think. “What a bad, bad man! Ooh and he’s making some classy bad-guy rapey threats about Dom’s sister an’ all! What a total bastard! I wonder how long it’ll be before he starts poking Vin Diesel with an electric cattle prod… oh hang, on, they’ve escaped!”
After slab-faced Diesel sets fire to a big pile of Reyes’ money (I don’t know why they did that, but you’d think they’d just steal it considering they had an expensive heist to finance), his response is to smack the messenger bearing news of this misfortune over the head with what looks like a ‘Businessman of the Year’ trophy. This scene was meant to make him look ruthless, but it was more like watching a Portuguese David Brent having a temper tantrum. He didn’t even get a satisfying death in the end- he just flails on his back like a wounded cockroach until The Rock gives him the double-tap.
The script is, as you can imagine, total nonsense. Even taking into account that Vin Diesel delivers every line like he’s been on a 48 hour ketamine binge, it’s still really bad. Particularly dreadful dialogue occurs during the car chase at the film’s climax, with Diesel grunting out such bum-clenching clichés as “you’re a father now, Brian!” to explain why his partner in crime should vamoose while he draws away the bad guys.
One good point was that, when it puts the effort in, Fast Five’s action sequences are pretty gung-ho. The train robbery is exciting (if utterly preposterous- surely there’s an easier way to nick three cars) and there’s a great foot chase across the rooftops of the Rio slums.
However, I found it hard to suspend my disbelief through the climactic heist, and there’s an obligatory and uninteresting street race that seemed to be little more than a chance for the characters to play ‘Who’s Got the Biggest Willy?’
Now, to paraphrase esteemed actor and analrapist Tobias Fünke, allow me to take off my amateur film critic pants and strap on my strident feminist dildo.
The writers of Fast Five seem to think they’ve created three “strong women”, presumably so ladies watching won’t drown themselves in their popcorn with boredom. The number of actual “strong women” is somewhat… rounder. I haven’t got enough patience to examine all of them, so let’s just look at the character Gisele (Gal Gadot) as an example of everything that’s wrong with how women are portrayed in movies.
Gisele’s an ex Mossad agent, a weapons expert, and quickly cements her credentials as someone not to be fucked with by pulling a gun on gobby ‘precision driver’ Roman (Tyrese Gibson) after he makes a sexist remark. Yeah, stick it to the Patriarchy, Gisele!
So, quiz fans, now she’s been established as a tough broad, what role do you think she plays in the robbery’s execution? Does she:
A) Utilise her crack sniping skills to foil an ambush in the favelas and saves Vin Diesel’s life; or
B) Engage in a breathtaking, motorcycle chase, kills dozens of henchmen, and looks fabulous while doing it; or
C) Don a bikini and allow Mr Reyes to fondle her bottom, so the gang can take his palm print from her arse to use to crack the safe?
If you chose option C, congratulations, you win a facepalm and an overwhelming feeling of despair that, nearly 100 years after Emily Davison threw herself under the King’s racehorse as a martyr to female emancipation, we still have to put up with this utter shit. Oh, by the way, after her roaring success being touched up by a boring drugs kingpin in a bad suit, Gisele is last seen riding off in the lap of her colleague. If this is a “strong woman” then I’m John the Baptist.
At 130 minutes run time, Fast Five was interminably long for a film that’s meant to be all about speedy things. The set-piece action sequences (which I’ll admit were quite good) are padded out by too many scenes of people standing around drinking bottled beer and spouting dialogue so inane it may have been written by that 8 year old that does Axe Cop.
What made it worse was watching with Colin (latin: traumatronnus geek). A perfect example of natural selection in action, he’s a hardy creature that’s evolved and adapted specially to survive long and boring movies. About halfway through Fast Five, he did what instinct told him to and fell into a defensive coma, thus sparing his precious brain cells. I sadly did not have that luxury, knowing my army of devoted readers would never forgive me if I didn’t give Fast Five the full and proper reaming it deserved, thus I prised open my weary eyes and watched every second, to my utmost regret.
So, predictably, Fast Five was a definite Movie Hell. Whilst featuring some diverting action sequences and an average, if not remotely original plot, it was pulled down too far by it’s cardboard characters, wooden acting (I tip my hat to The Rock, for he and his bird-eating spider of a beard were the best thing in this) and atrocious, flabby, boring, and at times outrageously sexist script.
I know you all like novelty, so I’ve done something a bit different this time round and added scores! Lovely, arbitrary scores! As an added treat, I’ve also noted if the film passed the feminist Bechdel Test (i.e. does the film has at least two women in it, do they talk to each other and is the conversation about something other than a man?).
Action/ special effects: 7/10
Does it pass the Bechdel Test?:
There’s three prominent female characters and I can’t remember them talking to each other- despite being in the same room at several moments. However, the film was so boring in places that I may have missed it.
There’s also a scene where a woman has a brief chat in Portuguese with Mia after a pregnancy-foreshadowing vomit-session, but as the version we watched had no subtitles I couldn’t glean what was said. Opinion over at the Bechdel Test website is divided, but I’m erring on the side of ‘nope.’
Tomorrow, it’s Fanboys vs Paul. God, I hope we get Fanboys, as I think I’m too emotionally fragile to put up with a film featuring a pot-smoking alien. If I wanted to look at one of those I’d buy myself a ‘Take Me to Your Dealer’ T-shirt.