A white bus full of prison inmates ambles down a lonely desert road. Three fast cars zoom in behind it. Then beside it. Then in front. You know what's coming: One flipped prison bus later, outlaw street racer Dominic Toretto is a free man again.
Free, that is, to get out of Dodge, so to speak. And fast. And probably in a Dodge. High on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Dom, ex-cop Brian O'Conner and Dom's sister, Mia (O'Conner's girlfriend), head south. Way south … to Rio de Janeiro's favela slums, where they hope to lie low until the heat subsides.
But sitting still isn't a strong suit for Dom and his crew. Especially when they're dead broke. So when Dom's childhood friend, Vince—who's been holed up in the favelas for years—suggests they score some quick cash helping a shady local pinch three exotic cars being transported on a train, they're game. After all, it's just a little job …
… that goes wrong in a big way. Three dead DEA agents later—taken out by lackeys of the aforementioned shady local, a man named Reyes who runs Rio's crime syndicate—Dom and Co. quickly graduate to the top of the FBI's stack of personas non grata. And the fact that they didn't commit the crime they're being accused of matters little to Agent Luke Hobbs, a Terminator-minded emissary dispatched to hunt them down.
"Above all else," Hobbs tells his team, "we don't ever, ever let them get in the cars." It's a good command. Of course, it's also impossible to enforce. With Hobbs in hot pursuit of his fast-and-furious quarry, Dom and O'Conner decide it's time to disappear again. Forever. And that takes money.
As luck and the scriptwriter would have it, a GPS chip in one of the cars they stole tells them exactly where Reyes launders his $100 million drug fortune. So Dom recruits some old friends for one last brazen heist, Brazilian-style.
As lack of luck would have it, their effort to outfox Reyes backfires, and he locks his fortune away in a bank-like vault in Rio's downtown police department. (After all, virtually every officer in the city works for him anyway.) But that's nothing a few fast cars and wily, on-the-lam former street racers can't handle, right?
Did I already mention that they're being systematically tracked by the guy formerly known as The Rock?
Within the convoluted context of this franchise, Dom and his car-stealing cohorts subscribe to a fierce family fidelity. In a speech to the group he recruits to pull off the heist (which, in addition to Brian and Mia, includes F&F alumni Roman, Tej, Han, Gisele, Santos and Leo), Dom tells them, "Money will come and go. The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room. Right here, right now. Salute, mi familia." Dom would go to any length to protect Mia (except, of course, excusing her from the crazy duties involved with stealing cars and driving them away, it seems). The same is true of Brian, and even more so after he learns she's pregnant.
After the first car theft goes awry, Dom evicts Vince from the group for not telling them who they were working for. Later, Vince saves Mia's life, and Dom welcomes him back, saying, "There's always room for family."
Conversations between Dom and Brian revolve around the subject of family and fatherhood. Dom talks about his father's devotion, while Brian remembers little of his dad. Dom assures Brian that he'll be a good father.
Dom also has deep sympathy for a local police officer named Elena Neves, whom Hobbs has recruited to help him. Like Dom, Elena lost a partner she loved deeply. (Dom lost his beloved Letty in Fast & Furious.) Each seems to understand the other's suffering.
As in Fast & Furious, the Toretto clan's Catholic faith is referenced. And Dom and Mia wear crucifixes which they seem quite fond of. References are made to saying grace before meals. Dom says his father always barbecued on Sundays after church, and that if there was no church, there was no barbecue. When a member of his crew gets killed, Dom genuflects and says, "You were always my brother."
Brian describes Hobbs as being like someone out of the Old Testament: "blood, bullets, wrath of God." One of Reyes' men says of the police protection around the safe, "God Himself couldn't get your money if He wanted to." The camera repeatedly shows us Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
At a street race, as is customary in this franchise, cameras zoom in on women wearing next to nothing, sometimes as little as a thong bikini. A beach scene boasts even more women in skimpy suits. Perhaps a dozen women employed at one of Reyes' money-laundering operations work in bras and panties. Reyes' office sports a large, Renaissance-style painting of a woman with one breast exposed. Elena, Mia and Gisele all wear less-than-modest outfits that expose leg, cleavage and/or midriff.
One scene features Gisele in a bikini (and the camera lingers on her physique) as she entices Reyes to caress and grab her backside in a ploy to get his fingerprints. Brian and Mia kiss several times. Obviously, sex between the unmarried couple is implied by her pregnancy. Crude comments invoke sex, legs, backsides and genitals.
In a scene that hints ever so slightly at sexualized violence, Dom roughly grabs the crucifix Elena is wearing (which belonged to Letty) from between her breasts.
There's no shortage of vehicular carnage, from the opening scene where the bus rolls repeatedly, to an explosive train heist in which three cars are stolen and three men shot. (One car plunges over a cliff with Dom and Brian in it.) A massive car chase through downtown Rio serves as the finale.
In that last bit of N2O-fueled mayhem, Dom's and Brian's cars have cables attached to the massive vault, which they've yanked out of the police station after ramming through several walls with a truck. For 10 or 15 minutes they careen wildly through town, the trailing vault smashing car after car. Even a building ends up quite a bit worse for the wear. Over and over again, pedestrians scamper to avoid being mortally clocked by the vault as it ricochets like a 20-ton pinball. Dom and Brian use the tow cables to clothesline police cars, many of which (and, presumably, their drivers) meet mangled ends.
The chase ends with a vengeful killing as a man lies on the ground, begging for mercy. He's shot in the head (just offscreen). An ambush involves RPGs and grenades taking out vehicles, and an entire team of drivers getting killed. (We see several bodies on the ground.) Retaliation consists of shooting and killing perhaps a dozen more people. Other shootouts or on-foot chases (one across the many-leveled roofs of the favela shanties) result in dozens more anonymous pursuers getting gunned down. A man's neck is snapped.
Dom and Brian hang from their wrists in a prison cell. Multiple men are knocked out. An epic hand-to-hand battle between Hobbs and Dom features all manner of brutal hits and body blows, not to mention plunging through panes of glass, a mirror, walls and tables. Two characters fall through a roof.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. About 20 s-words. We hear close to 10 misuses of God's name, half of which are combined with "d‑‑n." Other foul language includes "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "p‑‑‑" and "pr‑‑k."
Drug and Alcohol Content
People drink beer and hard liquor in quite a few scenes. Brian and Vince are shown with five or six empty beer bottles in front of them. Mia abstains from alcohol because of her pregnancy.
We hear passing references to the fact that Reyes' fortune came from dealing drugs.
Other Negative Elements
Callous thieves, speeding cars, corrupt cops and … exploding sewage. That's Fast Five for you. A pipe bomb in the police department explodes and hurls sewage all over the men's restroom—and all over a guy on a toilet. There's a crude reference to urinating.
It's a crowd-pleasing moment when Hobbs decides to join Dom's group after all his men get gunned down—which makes it no less a moral and ethical compromise motivated by Hobbs' thirst for vengeance. "I'll ride with you, Toretto," he says. "At least until we kill that son of a b‑‑ch." At the end of the film, sort of like in an old Looney Tunes short, Hobbs tells Dom that he has to keep chasing him, but that he'll give him a 24-hour head start.
On top of that, the film invites viewers to believe that Dom's crew stealing $100 million from a notoriously wicked drug lord has a kind of Robin Hood-esque nobility to it.
Movie No. 5. Just like movie No. 4. Etcetera. This 2011 installment is exactly what you'd expect: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and their supporting cast—which now includes Dwayne Johnson—doing absolutely insane things with cars and looking very cool doing it.
According to the movie's production notes, the filmmakers bought—and destroyed—nearly 300 cars making Fast Five. And if close-up shots of hood ornaments are any indication, the vast majority—not counting your requisite Nissan GT-Rs, Ford GT40s, DeTomaso Panteras and Porsche 911 GT3 RSs—were new Dodge Chargers.
The heist angle this time smacks of something like Oceans Eleven or The Italian Job. And Reyes' determination to take out both Dom's crew and Hobbs smacks of Clear and Present Danger too. So I guess it'd be unfair to say that Fast Five only plagiarizes earlier films in its own franchise.
No doubt the filmmakers hoped to do nothing more than give audiences what David Letterman calls "More 'splosions! More 'splosions!" It's an adrenaline-charged "good time" for giddy gearheads. But it's also chock-full of intense violence, profanity and titillation.
And beyond that, at the risk of sounding like a broken flywheel, this latest F&F film once again delivers a dubious, self-contained and subjective morality. At one point, Brian says the money they steal from Reyes will be enough to purchase "new passports, new lives." Then he adds, "We'll buy our freedom."
It's easy to swallow that feel-good line without much thought, because these characters' loyalty and family-like bonds pull at our sympathies. But the film is essentially saying that instead of paying the price for reckless, illegal activity, all you have to do is engage in more of the same, look smooth while you do it, then cash out to beat the system completely.
Absolutely no one who's even remotely interested in this film's fast cars and fearless action is really thinking about what that message does to our worldviews. Which is exactly why I'm bringing it up.