The Fast and Furious franchise returns with its globalized cast of long-legged women and hulking, barrel-chested brutes - all of whom, with their gorilla physiques and carelessly (or carefully) fitted shirts, appear abnormally engorged.
But the noticeable uptick in brawn soon becomes an apt physical quality as the thriftily named Fast Five, not five minutes in, reveals itself as a far more able-bodied and robust rubber-and-steel actioner than any of its four boorishly base predecessors.
Which isn’t to say that this latest installment – which welcomely makes the transition from attitudinal, neon-colored street racer to exotically-framed heist film – isn’t meat-headed, doltish or crudely written, but that it’s an almost inarguably smoother and more agreeable package.
Picking up where we left off, cop-turned-criminal Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) rather inconceivably busts Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of a prison bus and the two suddenly find themselves, along with O’Conner’s girl Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s sister, on the run in Rio de Janeiro.
The trio soon find themselves in hot water after a botched train robbery involving a Ford GT has the country’s supreme drug lord, Hernan Reyes, plus a bulging super-soldier, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail as they gear up for a 100-million-dollar heist.
The mid-section of the film is rather doughy and undercooked –with the usual team-building and game-planning more taxing than stimulating with a glamorous-yet- limited cast – but once they get behind the wheel, the results are nearly intoxicatingly addictive. (The final car chase is expertly done and exhilaratingly free from exaggerated digital effects.)
By film’s end, (predicated by an impromptu toast by Dom, the sleeveless patriarch) the seemingly impossible has been attained – Fast Five has turned these macho boors and flimsy, tanned beauties into a goofy, curiously likeable family of misfits, both on and off the screen. [C+]