POSTED ON MAY 4, 2011:
Plot holes, potholes and a new cult hit
Walking into Fast Five wasn't the same as walking into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you're scratching your head wondering what they have in common, it hasn't anything to do with the story or similarities in tone, technique or theme. I just hadn't seen the films that led up to it. But, unlike Potter, jumping into Fast Five uninitiated won't leave you wondering what the hell is going on. The franchise is neither as complex nor as smart as J.K. Rowling's fantastically dense fantasy series.
And that's OK. Sometimes all you need are sexy people, badass cars and propulsive action coupled with a story so dumb and riddled with plot holes that you just have to give yourself up to the ride. Don't think about it too hard and Fast Five is an amusing bit of summer fun. Besides, if people listened to critics on these flicks there never would have been a Tokyo Drift.
Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto, freshly incarcerated and headed to the big house when he's rescued by ex-FBI man, and former nemesis, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his sister Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster). They reunite in Rio de Janeiro with Vince (Matt Schulze) who tips O'Conner, in need of money, to an easy heist: three high dollar, rare, sports cars being transported on a train. If you're wondering how stealing cars off of a moving train qualifies as "easy" then join the club. The plan, obviously, goes awry when they discover that the cars are DEA impounds and when their Brazilian counterparts in the robbery double-cross them, killing three DEA agents in the process.
They make their escape with one of the vehicles, which turns out to belong to Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a corrupt business magnate who's hoarded over $100 million in various locations all over Rio. The car contains a chip in its GPS unit that has all the details of his network and Reyes wants it back at all costs--hence, the double-crossing Brazilians who, unknown to our anti-heroes, were working for Reyes all along.
The deaths of the DEA agents are blamed on Dominic -- already on the FBI's most wanted list -- and so the Feds dispatch a special unit, lead by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who, with the help of a rookie Rio cop, Elena Neves (the scorching hot Elsa Pataky) seek to bring in Dominic and O'Conner. And he never misses his man.
Angered by the heat (and the burn from Reyes), Dominic, looking for payback, puts together a plan to steal all of Reyes' money and buy freedom for himself, O'Conner and Mia, who is pregnant with O'Conner's baby. Of course, they have to call in some old friends and a couple of new ones to pull off the job.
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow), who has helmed the Fast and Furious series since Tokyo Drift, Fast Five is, if nothing else, a fun bit of popcorn-munching fluff. The script by Chris Morgan (Wanted) never lets common sense (or physics) get in the way of a good time. O'Conner, for example, took the train heist job for the money, which they never receive yet doesn't come up as an issue again, as they never have a problem obtaining the equipment to pull off the heist. Hobbs, who is so good at man hunting that O'Conner describes him as "Old Testament," seems to have a hard time tracking down the crew despite them not lying particularly low. They even keep the same safe house throughout the film. Reyes, with hordes of desperate poor in the favelas of Rio to do his bidding for a reward, enjoys as little success as Hobbs at finding the crew or his chip. Just lucky I guess. Essentially, despite some gangbusters action, Fast Five never really builds a sense of actual tension. It's too busy being cool.
But the action of Fast Five is well shot by Lin, who maintains a fine spatial coherence and doesn't devolve into hyper-edited confusion. To be honest, I expected a bit more. The opening heist is a great action set piece, and there's a been there-done that rooftop foot chase in the slums, but one expects to see a little street racing in a Fast and Furious flick, which never really happens. Once the crew decides they need a new car they visit the local street racing club and win a Porsche, while skipping the actual race itself. There is only one really epic chase sequence, which is a doozy, not only visually but also logically. Whatever. It looks great. Lin's predilection for practical destruction, as opposed to CGI cars, is appreciated.
The cast are clearly having a good time and have fine chemistry with Diesel growling all of his lines and Walker's pearly whites standing in for emoting. Johnson, as Hobbs, is a hoot but given little to do until the final act. Brewster, Tyrese and Ludacris all have a middling relationship with gravitas but are fun enough to watch. These characters aren't supposed to feel too real.
Summer is here, people. At least as far as Hollywood is concerned. Judging from Fast Five's 83 million dollar opening weekend, you're ready for it.
With 2006's Slither, writer/director James Gunn crafted a funny, gory, energetic love letter to horror fans, particularly those steeped in enough good taste to love the 1986 cult classic, Night of the Creeps -- to which Slither bears more than a passing resemblance. Gunn returns to the big screen this year with SUPER, a film which bears a less than passing resemblance to last year's Kick-Ass, but whose thematic similarities remain. Regardless, Gunn takes Kick-Ass's core conceit ("Why hasn't anyone just become a superhero") and gives it his own funny, weird, ultra-violent spin.
Frank (Rainn Wilson) is a loser. Brought up by a fundamentalist family, Frank only has two good memories of his life: helping a cop catch a mugger and meeting his inexplicably hot wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler). He jockeys a flat top at Joe's Diner with his street-smart friend, Hamilton (The Wire's Andre Royo), who offers his best sympathies when Sarah, relapsing into a drug habit, leaves Frank for Jacques (a scenery chewing Kevin Bacon), a rich, smarmy asshole responsible for Sarah's fall off the wagon.
Anguished by his loss, Frank is touched by a vision while watching the All-Jesus Network. The star of the show, Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), tells Frank that God has a purpose for him. That purpose: become a crime fighting super hero.
Frank decides to brush up on his comics, and meets Libby (Ellen Page), a diminutive comic shop clerk who takes an immediate interest in the stoically mysterious Frank. Crafting a suit, Frank becomes The Crimson Bolt and heads out to a drug-ridden street to kick the shit out of some dealers. Dealt an ass whipping instead, Frank decides he needs weapons. Arming himself with a pipe wrench and a head full of emotional trauma, he takes to the streets; cracking the skulls of child molesters and line cutters, alike.
When Libby, who's possibly more psychotic than Frank himself, puts together that Frank is the now notorious Crimson Bolt, she begs Frank to let her become his sidekick, Boltie. The Jedi trains the padawan, as it were (she needs to be told not to kill a kid that keyed her friend's car), and the pair join forces to rescue Sarah and get revenge on Jacques.
While the similarities to Kick-Ass exist -- the regular guy turning masked crime fighter with a viciously violent girl for backup and going after a drug dealer -- they end there. Gunn writes Frank a little closer to Travis Bickle than Dave Lizewski, who was basically just a regular kid who loved superheroes and wants to become one in order to right wrongs and combat public apathy. Frank evolves into The Crimson Bolt out of depressed desperation and more than a few mental quirks, which allows his inner sociopath an outlet to assuage his lifelong ineffectuality. That he believes he's guided by God, adds yet another layer of delusional, often darkly funny, dysfunction.
Gunn's script and direction are his own, loaded with nerdy references. From Japanese hentai classic, Urotsukidoji, to casting the likes of Troma Entertainment founder Lloyd Kaufman or fanboy deity Fillion in cameos, or tapping Rob Zombie to be the voice of God, it's a rich FUBU tradition. One aimed at people steeped in horror films, sci-fi and superhero lore and '80s pop culture; much like his cinematic better, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz).
SUPER suffers from an uneven tone, to be sure. While Gunn packs a lot of funny and imaginative elements into SUPER, the film veers, sometimes wildly, between wryly black humor and dark character drama. Visually it's is all over the map, sporting a fairly inexpensive look that is contrasted by some great FX work and spontaneous visual flourishes as animated backgrounds light up in the action sequences or we get a literal look inside Frank's head as he considers a future of prison rape. It feels light on its feet one minute and heavy the next, as Gunn fills in the background of Frank and Sarah's life with a couple of superfluous flashbacks. Not a deal breaker, but it throws off the pace.
Rainn Wilson isn't channeling much Dwight Schrute here, and makes the character his own with a fine performance that does a better job of bridging the tonal unevenness than the script does. Ellen Page is off-puttingly manic though she's off-putting in general. She may not literally be Hit Girl, but she looks like she's still 12 years old. Watching her be alluring was (purposefully?) uncomfortable, but she shares a good chemistry with Wilson.
Kevin Bacon is having a palpable amount of fun but is basically mugging, which is fine because he's hilarious. Gunn further casts Slither alumni, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry as the world's most pointless detective -- in fact, one of three cops in the entire town. Little cameos abound for those that recognize them.
SUPER has cult film written all over it. Translation: You'll have a blast getting trashed and watching this as a midnight movie some night. "Shut up, Crime!"
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A38618