Fast Five (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner
There are two things in this movie. The first involves a train full of expensive cars and a souped-up dune-buggy designed to rumble up alongside said train and surreptitiously unload said cars one-by-one. Except the car bandits hired to perform this swindle have a dispute in the middle of it that causes some people to die, some things to explode, and some cars to be driven through the desert at the last second in a quintessentially fast, furious manner. At the climax of this scene, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker fly a gorgeous car off a cliff into a voluminous ravine to avoid crashing into the side of a bridge the train is using to cross said ravine—and as they plunge into the water at the bottom, one cannot help but feel plunged too—with creeping dread—into the unsublimated homoerotic jackhammer car-tharsis that will otherwise suffuse the vast, boring stretches of horrible writing and endlessly cliché “capery build-up” that is that is the gray, fake meat nutritionlessly non-existing in the center of this action sandwich.
The second sequence sings. The post-heist chase routine—somehow get the fuck away from the scene of the crime with all the Benjamins, somehow escape a million cops, somehow don’t die—is something with which Philistine cinephiles like myself are wearily familiar. Fast Five ups the ante by giving Paul and Vin a giant bank vault attached to their two black cars by unbreakable cable. Imagine two rocket-packed ants tethered by dental floss to a slice of wedding cake, dragging it out of a picnic by swinging around it in different directions—like comets or electrons—in order to alter its deadlier inertia, then turning, pulling the cables taut, suddenly, so that the surging obstruction is flung over lanes of traffic, destroying opposing forces while the ants swing around it, allowing rapid, strange, and circular alterations in the three-part object’s escape from the swarm of sirening authorities. It’s an ugly, stupid, beautiful ballet that almost saves the bloated disaster of the middle of the movie. Thesis: spectacular action is the sine qua non of even a mediocre blockbuster. Peace.