RECAP: Fast Five

Fast Five (2011): Justin Lin

Bringing a new edge to the Fast franchise, Dwayne Johnson joins Vin Diesel and his family to steal some cars and avoid the law in Rio de Janeiro.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: Fast cars and bad men, Dominic Toretto ducks the police in Rio while planning to steal $100 million of a crime lord’s funds. 

Hero (5/10)

For Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), it’s all about family. In Fast Five, “family just got bigger.” Dom’s just learned that his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her man Brian (Paul Walker) will soon have a baby. “Family” is a major theme in the Fast franchise and a large part of the series’s success. Dom makes certain everyone remembers this.

Dom, Mia, and Brian stealing cars from a moving train.

Fast Five begins with Dom in shackles, riding a prisoner transfer bus toward his future home–a maximum security facility for 25 years of involuntary service to the state. However, before the title flashes onscreen, Mia and Brian use their mad driving skills to free him and flee to Rio de Janeiro.

Being a fugitive, again, attracts the best agents in the US government. In Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dom meets his match in physicality and familial duty. These two square off twice, and they stand very close to each other when they speak. It’s a two-hour tough-off.

“Hey, when this is over do you want to make out?”

Despite the fighting and driving, Dom seems to have family on his mind more often than not. Dom allegedly, ALLEGEDLY, allows Brian to win an impromptu drag race in stolen police cars. “A baby gift,” it’s said.

Dom also gathers his selected family together for a toast, after Mia spills the beans to the crew about her pregnancy, saying, “Money’ll come and go. The most important thing in life will be the people in this room.” A bold statement, considering he just met most of those people days ago. “There’s always room for family,” Dom says.

Missing his beloved Letty, Dom finds a kindred spirit in a local cop named Elena (Elsa Pataky), a woman who joined the police force after her husband was gunned down two years ago. These two find common ground in their fight against local crime lord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).

Dom, as ever, is a thief with a heart of gold. No moment speaks more to that trait than after his arrest two-thirds through the film when Hobbs, who has chased Dom the whole movie, beats him up and finally captures him.

Driving through Rio, Hobbs’s convoy is attacked by some bad guys with a lot of men, guns, and rocket launchers. At first, Dom, Brian, Mia, and Vince are handcuffed and unable to fight back. Hobbs watches his men die from bad guy munitions. The bad guys surround Hobbs, who lies on the ground, unable to fight back.

Suddenly gunfire fells the masked hooligans. It’s Dom, wielding a shotgun (a very Dom weapon), and Brian and Vince killing as well. Dom, seeing they’ve won the fight, stops shooting long enough to stand over Hobbs, for the second time, and offers his arresting officer a hand up. He only wanted to evade Hobbs, not watch him die. Made a friend in the process.

Villain (1/10)

Reyes is known to the outside world as an investor with fingers in many of Rio’s pots. Locals know better. Reyes moves drugs and buys police officers, all the better to make profit with. One scene allows us into his mindset.

Meeting with crime lords of other, unnamed nations, Reyes explains that violence alone cannot suffice to suppress a populace. “They will eventually fight back, because they have nothing to lose.” Reyes gives people something they fear to lose, a taste of a better life. “And for that taste of a better life, I own them.”

Reyes needs money to run his Legitimate Businesses, and has more than $100 million stashed across the city in separate cash houses.

Reyes and his Number Two, Zizi, who is the only survivor of three different fight scenes.

After Dom attacks one house, Reyes feels compelled to move all the money to a central location–a police station’s evidence vault, probably the safest place in the city.

We don’t see much of Reyes after that. Or before. He’s a guy who enjoys the good life, like patting Gal Gadot’s booty outside a beachfront bar. When The Rock is onboard as an enemy to Dom, the real villain takes a back seat.

Action/Effects (6/10)

Guns blaze in Fast Five.

When you catch a criminal and drive him through Rio’s poorer neighborhoods, do so in an armored vehicle, driving so fast that you truck gets airborne. That’s the lesson this movie taught me.

Hobbs rides shotgun, no seat belt, in his armored truck while two regular SUVs drive in front and behind. As the vehicles streak through the neighborhoods, a man holding a rocket launcher appears atop a roof. Hobbs spots him and calls out “Ambush!”

Either the rocket guy works for the villain, or he objects strongly to reckless driving. I’m guessing the former, but no one ever says for sure.

The rocket-propelled grenade explodes the lead vehicle, igniting a ball of flame under it. The other two cars stop and the heavily armed D.S.S. agents hop out and start shooting at the enemies surrounding them.

The bad guys mostly win the fight. They pepper Hobbs’s armored car. Hobbs steps out and starts killing everyone like it’s a turkey shoot. Hobbs hits the deck when a grenade explodes another SUV.

The action slows down to allow Hobbs a hero’s treatment in the moments he turns from good to bad. Or, from good to a different type of good, when he stops chasing one criminal to help rob another, much worse criminal.

Fast Five‘s action scenes are light when the characters are not in the cars. That’s OK, because we don’t come to the franchise for witty retorts (unless such retorts regard booty) or the police investigations.

Sidekicks (4/8)

Brian’s and Mia’s relationship is about to add a third person. Brian learns a day before Dom. Mia drops the bombshell as the three of them escape Hobbs and Reyes’s gang. After emerging from a tunnel with two parties in pursuit, Dom wants to split up to run away, but Mia refuses. She doesn’t want to lose her family again. Also, she’s pregnant. Ultimate bombshell. Brian smiles and says, “I’m not going anywhere.” Dom hugs them both and says the thing about the family expanding.

Brian starts thinking plenty about fatherhood. He asks Dom what he remembers about his father. Dom tells a lot of stories, finishing by saying that he remembers everything. Brian, however, recalls nothing, not even what his dad looked like. Then, speaking of himself and Mia, “We got to get out now.” They will, after one last job.

Brian recruits buddies from previous adventures, and Dom meets several crew members for the first time. Tyrese Gibson plays smooth-talking, sexy-ass Roman. His buddy Tej (Ludacris) is the tech guy. Roman loves little more than to boast, and Tej loves busting him down as much.

All the crew planning the heist

Sung Kang, demon of Tokyo drifting, joins the crew and falls for Gal Gadot‘s Gisele. They have a cute scene in which Han reveals that he knows Gisele was once a Mossad agent, and Gisele pins Han as a former two-pack-a-day guy who eats chips constantly to help keep his hands and mouth busy.

Gal Gadot looking badass

Brian recruits two locals who break into the police station housing Reyes’s money, where they show their skills infiltrating. Everyone has a role, and each plays it well. The insane vault-stealing plan would never have worked otherwise.

Henchmen (7/8)

Rarely does a henchman fill the role of most interesting and arced character. Such is the case when you add Dwayne ‘The Rock” “The Franchise Enhancement” Johnson to a movie series that’s already lasted a decade and multiple casting changes.

The Rock plays Hobbs, chief of the Diplomatic Security Service. What’s his job? Brian, former FBI agent, explains to the crew. “When the FBI wants to find somebody,” he says, “that’s who they call.”

Hobbs lands in Rio to catch Dom and company, who are (unjustly) wanted for murdering the three DEA agents riding the train through Brazil early in the movie. Hobbs wastes no time establishing his M.O. Meeting a cooperative Brazilian military officer, Hobbs explains what and who he needs. He asks for a local cop named Elena, perhaps the only cop in Rio who can’t be bought. Oh, and one more thing, guy, “Stay the fuck out of my way.”

Hobbs and Elena

“This guy,” Brian says, “He’s Old Testament.” In manner of retribution, perhaps. I doubt many folks in ancient Israel sported multiple tattoos or asked their friends in law enforcement to make certain they wear their “funderwear” for an operation. When asking for the bad news of the case, Hobbs says, “Give me the damn veggies.”

And, in perhaps Hobbs’s finest hour, Elena approaches Hobbs with questions about Dom’s case. She thinks he didn’t murder those agents. It doesn’t make sense, she says. “Here’s what makes sense,” Hobbs says. He takes the case file Elena holds, and HE THROWS IT ON THE FLOOR. Dom’s is just a name that fell on his desk, so he’s got to go down. That’s how D.S.S. rolls!

Fast Five sets up Hobbs as a federal version of Dom, a man certain of his plans and ideas, and complete with loyal team that would die for him. Later, they do.

Hobbs begins Fast Five trying to capture Dom, but after a fateful trip through the favelas he changes his allegiance. Reyes’s men attack Hobbs’s convoy, eventually killing all other members of the D.S.S. team as Hobbs watches. The camera slows and encircles the supine Hobbs as grenades explode around one of his colleagues. The situation resembles a superhero’s origin stories, and The Rock is pretty close to a superhero.

The Fast franchise is about souped-up cars and ridiculous stunts, and I can’t think a a human embodiment of those ideals better than The Rock.

Elena, for her part, proved the better investigator of the pair. She knows Rio and its criminals, especially Reyes. She figures out that someone is framing Dom for the three murders. Dom saves her early in the film as he saves Hobbs later. She accepts that he has a heart of gold.

Elena joined the force after her husband was murdered in the streets. That makes her incorruptible, and I think her story would make a good movie on its own, a Woman on Fire situation. Sadly, when The Rock is involved, you have to get out of the way.

Stunts (6/6)

No film franchise this side of 1999 makes stunts look easy like FastFast Five kicks off the driving tricks before the title screen, when three cars crash a prison bus to help Dom escape 25 years of detention.

Pretty soon Brian, Mia, and Dom are stealing seized cars from a train in the Brazilian countryside. Dom’s buddy Vince has set up a job to be partly pulled with locals. It’s a precarious partnership that goes south as fast a GTO.

Brian and Mia ride in the train, without a ticket, and steal the ticket checker’s key card to access the train carriage housing the stolen vehicles. They also walk past some Drug Enforcement Agency suits, which sets off flags for them.

Driving toward the train through the desert is a tricked out truck with large flat bed. It’s Dom and those local guys who work for Reyes (though we don’t know that second part yet).

The truck drives parallel to the train as the men onboard laser cut the train wall. Dom steps on to greet Brian and Mia. They only have two minutes to steal three cars.

Vince drives the first car. The crew latches two winches onto the body that yank the car sideways from the train to the flatbed truck. The flatbed tilts backwards, easing the car onto the ground to drive away. One of the locals wants the next car, a car that Mia takes. He doesn’t like that, and he starts a fight as she drives away in the same manner as Vince.

Dom shows the skills he’s learned on the inside, such as blocking a crowbar with his arm. Guy’s literally made of steel, it seems. Brian leaps onto the angled flatbed and grabs a rope to hang on in a five-star stunt filmed from several yards behind, the better to see the moving parts.

The DEA catches what’s up and moves to stop the theft. Dom again fights off the guy with the crowbar while throwing a second guy off the train and into a bridge they’re crossing. Probably killed the guy, but who cares he was bad amirite?

Cars flying all around this flick.

Brian uses the rope to throw one guy out of the truck, and he battles the driver, who wields a live torch that Brian also fights off. Brian grapples with the driver and can’t avoid colliding with the train. Fuel squirts onto the train, which is on fire now.

A small explosion forces Brian to hold the outer edge of the car. The train has slowed, but it still approaches another bridge. If Brian jumps onto the ground, the movie implies, he won’t make it. Dom sits in the final drug car as the three feds enter the car. The crowbar guy pops out behind them and kills all three. Dom doesn’t hesitate. He drives out the train, pulls beside Brian, who leaps onto the back of the car moments before the truck hits the bridge and explodes.

All is well. Except Dom doesn’t stop the car. He drives it over the cliff and splashes into a river three hundred or so feet below. The fall could have killed them, should have injured them, but instead they are fine.

Preparing to drive over a cliff into what they hope is a river below.

Later, there’s a fight. You know the fight is coming. Hobbs versus Dom. Two alphas in the arena, only one bone to gnaw. GRRRRRRRR.

Dom thinks Hobbs is across town, but he’s not because he found a tracker Tej placed on his truck. Hobbs reversed the signal to find Dom and crashes the party. Driving his tank-like truck, or truck-like tank, Hobbs literally crashes Dom’s beloved Dodge. You made a big mistake, Hobbs.

Hobbs steps out, and Dom strikes first landing body blows to Hobbs’s vested torso. Hobbs fights back and bashes Dom’s face into his crinkled car hood. Don’t remind Dom of your mistake, Hobbs. Dom uses football skills to tackle Hobbs into walls. I suspect this is a smart fighting tactic, as Hobbs is much larger than Dom, so getting close can neutralize Hobbs’s power.

Hobbs throws Dom through a window, does a kick flip to stand, and hawks a loogy. They fight in a dark room, and pretty soon Hobbs has Dom in a headlock. Dom sees his family surrounded by Hobbs’s men, and that gives him the boost he needs to regain the upper hand. Then, Hobbs throws Dom through another window. Crash.

You mess with family I kill you.

The cops and criminals surround the fighters. When people start watching you fight, it makes you look like an angry animal, and that’s what happens here. Mia screams at Dom to stop, while Hobbs calls off his goons because, “I got this.”

Hobbs finds a wrench and nearly hits Dom. Dom quickly takes that same wrench and smashes it into the floor, echoing an earlier scene in which Hobbs chided Dom for beating a man half to death with a wrench. Dom shows restraint for the first time in his life.

Vin Diesel 1, The Rock 0.

Climax (5/6)

Reyes has tripled the guard around his money and called in all police officers on the payroll. They must own every cop in the city, because there’s a lot of eyes on them now.

With Hobbs on the team, Dom needs a lot less cover and has a lot more muscle. Hobbs and Elena ride in the armored truck toward the police station and break through all the barriers. Dom and Brian follow in two getaway cars as Hobbs draws gunfire.

Hobbs crashes through the wall to the evidence room and exits the vehicle to shoot at, but not hit, the cops. They might be dirty cops, but some of them could be clean, just attacking whoever the hell is crashing through the station.

Dom and Brian attach winches to the vault as Reyes learns of this. The two Dodge Chargers pull the safe from the wall. Earlier we learned the safe to weight 10 tons. Could the cars do that?

Dom and Brian haul ass to the street. The safe flips a few times but somehow does not twist the cable. Yes, all the cop cars are on their tale. Mia calls out directions. Hobbs and Elena stay behind long enough to arrest the lead corrupt officer.

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Much of Rio will crumble thanks to Dom and Brian and their vendetta.

Mia tells them that every corrupt cop in Rio is on their tale. Whew. I was worried some clean cops might be chasing them, but now I know better. Thanks, Mia (and script), for alleviating my fears.

Tire spikes block their escape path, so the guys whip the cars right, sending the vault through a bank (ha!) that doesn’t injure anyone. The winches should have snapped by now, right?

They don’t. Dom and Brian brake hard and use the vault to crash into oncoming cop cars. But here come the motorcycles. They’ll fix everything (hard eye roll).

Brian drives backward for a while until he dispatches the bike cops, then he pulls a sweet hand brake turn to reverse direction again. They make a right turn without crashing the vault. They’re getting the hang of it!

The pair break a bus stop stand without snapping the winches. Shocking. More destruction follows on the wide avenue. Sure, they’re stealing $100 million, but they’re causing that much damage. Counterpoint: what price can you place on breaking criminal organizations and exposing corrupt police officers?

Some hot dog cop leans out a side window to blast at them with a shotgun. That car and others are sent flying by Dom and Brian. One car takes out a tree. It’s always the trees that suffer.

We’re reaching Blues Brothers levels of vehicular damage. Sparks are literally flying. Han and Roman decide to make their move, shoving cops off the road with their stole police cars. It’s funny that they wore cop uniforms for this. Roman says some things that cops say when they stop you in your car. “License and registration.” Yuk yuk yuk.

They buy a 10 second window. We finally see Reyes following them, Zizi at the wheel.

The guys drag the vault onto a bridge. Brian’s scared because they’re too many cops to outrun. Dom tells Brian that he’s a father now, and he has to run. Dom will stay behind. “Stick with the plan,” Brian yells. “It was always the plan,” Dom says coolly.

Dom cuts Brian’s wire and turns around, guns the engine, and drives through the gauntlet. Hey, guess what, Rio, it’s NOX time!

Dom expertly uses the vault as a wrecking ball. Despite cars crashing into it directly, the cable still doesn’t break. That’s a cable company I can get behind. (Giant eye roll, I know. Couldn’t help myself.) The cable decapitates a car.

Reyes orders Dom killed, and a minigun pops up from the sunroof of a neighboring SUV. Dom turns his car to the side, sending the vault through the concrete barriers into the other lanes, where momentum swings the vault around to clip the top of Reyes’s car but smash the minigun car into the bay below the bridge as Dom bails out before the flying vault snaps his car into the air and lands on top of a screaming Reyes in the driving equivalent of throwing a successful Hail Mary in a hailstorm as the linebacker tackles you and tears your ACL.

In the final set piece Dom stands up and see the vault on the edge of the bridge and his car covering Reyes’s SUV. Zizi, the consummate survivor, emerges with a gun. But it’s Brian that puts him down.

Oh, and here’s Hobbs and Elena. Reyes falls out of the SUV, cries for help. Hobbs doesn’t even slow down as he shoots him twice. “That’s for my team you son of a bitch.”

Hobbs gives Dom and Brian 24 hours to bail, but they have to leave the money. Movie over.

Or is it?

Hobbs opens the vault. It’s empty.

Jokes (1/4)

Roman is kind of funny. He tries too hard. Hobbs has the best unintentionally funny lines. Throwing those files was a golden moment.

Setting (3/4)

She goes to Rio and she dances on the sand…

Rio de Janeiro, neither the capital of nor the largest city in Brazil, though mistaken for both, hosts Dom and his selected family.

Hey, did you know the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooks Rio? It does. You’ll see it three or four times when the camera flies over the city’s famous beaches and Sugarloaf Mountain.

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Rio de Janeiro

Intriguingly, the characters don’t visit a beach until after they’ve left the city. Instead they hole up in the favelas, the regulatory-light areas of shacks and shanties surrounding the concrete buildings.

Somehow the crew finds an abandoned warehouse so large they can create a fake driving course inside and avoid legal detection. These are fun moments that could have been filmed anywhere.

The best Rio scenes occur when Dom and Brian are running. The first occurs above the favelas, as Dom escapes Hobbs by running on roofs. These locales are as tightly wound as they are labyrinthine. The colors mimic a palm tree: browns and greens that indicate a wet climate.

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Running on the roofs of the favelas.

The climax follows Dom, Brian, and a huge vault through Rio’s streets. At least I think they were Rio’s streets. They could have fooled me. (They did.) The climax of the climax occurs on a wide bridge. This is your run-of-the-mill four-lane bridge.

Exterior Rio=beautiful (though mostly filmed in Puerto Rico). Interior Rio=sound stage. More former, less latter, please.

Commentary (0/2)

Yeah, right.

Offensiveness (-1/-2)

Gisele joins the crew because she is a weapons person who is “not afraid to throw down.” However, her significant contribution was getting the villain to touch her ass.


  • The women counting Reyes’s money wear bras as tops. Didn’t understand that.

Summary (37/68): 54%

Adding The Rock really did spice up the Fast franchise, at least for the next three installments. Setting him opposite Dom, only to be won over by Dom’s tremendous force of will and gravelly charm elevated the move to casting genius. Fast Five is another fine installment in a series that somehow keeps outdoing itself, yet remains fun in a way its over-the-top nature does not overwhelm.