In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Vin Diesel, left, and Dwayne Johnson are shown in a scene from ‘Fast Five.’ (AP Photo/Universal Pictures)
By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
If the “Fast Five” filmmakers had thrown in giant, shape-shifting robots, talking apes and some vampires, the fifth installment in “The Fast and the Furious” franchise would hardly have been more outlandish.
That said, the movie will get you where you’re going. Pretty cars, prettier women, insanely absurd action that truly thrills even as it shatters all physical laws, and enough testosterone-fueled violence to satisfy the most-rabid WWE SmackDown crowd.
Opting for a blowout of a movie with no restraints whatsoever, the filmmakers wisely add former wrestling superstar Dwayne Johnson as a relentless federal agent to go toe-to-toe with Vin Diesel’s driving ace Dom Toretto, who’s again on the run along with his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and cop-turned-outlaw Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker).
Any thwack from the inevitable Diesel-Johnson slug-fest might kill an ordinary human, but these characters basically are comic-book figures, so they’re able to wail the innards out of each other and come through with only a cosmetic bruise or two.
Directing his third chapter in the franchise, Justin Lin applies that over-the-top-and-then-some approach to everything in “Fast Five.” If it can move, it can move faster. If it can crash, it can crash harder. If it can roar, it can roar louder.
It’s nonsense, but when Hollywood does nonsense right, it can be a lot of fun. Lin now is far more assured as an action director, crafting stunts and chases that zip along so recklessly you won’t much care how utterly impossible they are.
Likewise, Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan, who wrote the last two “Fast and Furious” flicks, step up the silliness of the dialogue and the characters’ mannerisms to let the audience in on the joke that no one is supposed to take any of this seriously. People strut and pronounce in such farcical fashion that it goes beyond stupid and somehow becomes, if not clever, at least crafty.
The filmmakers do actually achieve cleverness with a surprise or two. You’ll want to stay through a portion of the end-credits to catch one of them, a jolting tease for the franchise’s preordained sixth installment after “Fast Five” hauls in its fortune.
In the current story, Dom is hunting his own fortune after Brian and Mia break him out of custody in a dementedly excessive prison-bus escape. Hiding out in Rio de Janeiro, the three join a daring car heist that puts them at odds with local crime boss Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and sets super agent Hobbs (Johnson) on their trail.
So Dom decides to get the band back together, enlisting an “Ocean’s Eleven”-style ensemble of past “Fast and the Furious” rowdies to part Reyes from his millions.
Returning as part of the team are Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon and Don Omar.
Elsa Pataky joins the cast as possibly Brazil’s lone honest police officer, a woman tapped by Hobbs to help him chase down Toretto’s gang.
But words like honest don’t mean much in the “Fast Five” world, where good guys are bad, bad guys are good, and only the really, really bad guys get what they’ve got coming.
There’s no moral compass here (and apparently no clock, either; the movie runs much too long, and despite the breathless pace, the trip does start to wear on you).
The only compass is the one pointing down the road straight ahead, down which “The Fast and the Furious” flicks will keep moving faster and faster. Maybe the filmmakers can do a little “Alice in Wonderland” rhyming and call the next one “Furiouser and Furiouser.”
“Fast Five,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language. Running time: 130 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.