When we first met Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) a decade ago in The Fast and the Furious, the decorated police detective went rogue to help career criminal Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Vin Diesel) evade justice for masterminding a string of multimillion-dollar truck hijackings. Four sequels later, we find the pair up to their old tricks, although the ex-cop is now with the FBI while the ex-con has just been sentenced to life without parole for murdering a mobster during a heroin sting gone bad.
After the opening credits, Brian frees Dom again by ramming an L.A. Country Sheriff's bus with a muscle car and flipping it over before it has a chance to reach the penitentiary. Following the daring escape, the buddies go their separate ways after agreeing to rendezvous in Rio de Janeiro.
Down in Brazil, Dominic learns that Brian's girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster), is pregnant. Coincidentally, this means that he's about to become an uncle because she happens to be his sister. But rather than buying baby clothes and otherwise preparing for the arrival of the little bundle of joy, the trio decide to hatch a plan to pull off the proverbial "one last heist" certain to set them up for the rest of their lives.
It seems that the local drug kingpin, Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), has managed to amass a cool $100 million in cash. However, our retirement-ready heroes realize that they need to assemble a crack team of experts if they're going to relieve the ruthless mobster of his ill-gotten gains.
So, they entice a half-dozen former confederates to South America from the far ends of the Earth with the promise of a big payday. The gang includes technical geek Tej Parker (Ludacris), smooth-talking, con artist Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and weapons whiz Gisele (Gal Gadot), as well as getaway drivers Tego Leo (Tego Calderon), Han Lue (Sung Kang) and Ric Santos (Don Omar).
The elaborate scheme involves scaring Reyes into hiding all of his loot in one place, so that they'll only have a single safe to crack. However, this proves more of a challenge than anticipated between the corrupt Rio cops and the arrival of a detail of Federal Agents led by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who are also looking for Reyes.
Fans of the Fast and Furious franchise are well aware of what to expect next, namely, a dazzling display of stunt driving and death-defying car chases involving souped-up, stolen automobiles. Since any subtlety in the protagonists' strategy invariably ends up tossed out the window, one might wonder why they even bother to go to such great pains to incorporate sophistication into their formula in the first place.
That disclaimer aside, Fast Five does nevertheless deliver in terms of harmless, high-octane mayhem for folks satiated cinematically by non-stop action and special effects alone.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and intense violence.
Running time: 130 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
To see a trailer for Fast Five, visit The Skanner's YouTube Channel