Fast Five
Directed by Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson
Rated PG-13 for
intense sequences of
violence and action, sexual content, and language
2 hrs. 10 min.

My wife made me go see this film. Understand that neither of us is a gearhead, which leaves only one good reason for her insistence: Vin Diesel. That might also explain the long line we stood in at 10:15 Saturday morning to buy tickets.

Seems other wives had similar influence.

Did I want to go? Not really, but now I’m forced to publicly thank her because this film is a blowout piece of popcorn entertainment that’s exciting and often very funny. Ok, also ridiculous and implausible, but I dare you to go see this and not crack a smile.

The story picks up just after Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been sentenced in an L.A. courtroom to 25 years to life in prison, presumably for being such a pain in the butt to the L.A. police department for the last four movies.

Witnessing his sentence are his co-partner (and former L.A. cop) Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his little sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), who also happens to be O’Conner’s sweetheart.

Cue the next scene: Brian, Mia and a gang of hot rod shanghaiers lead a charge down a lonesome California highway. Together, they surround the L.A. County Sheriff’s bus carrying Dom to the slammer and force it to crash. Of course, Dom and the gang escape. The bus, however, does not survive.

From there, Dom and Brian sneak down to Rio, assemble a team, and become embroiled in the affairs of a notorious Brazilian gangster named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Typical of these bad boys, they steal the man’s cars and money while dodging his gang members’ flying bullets.

Meanwhile, Dom is being vigorously pursued by hunky U.S. Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who has been sent to Brazil to drag Dom by his heels back to a U.S. jail. Never mind extradition. Hobbs has guns, plus he’s big and nasty.

You know, your typical American diplomat.

If you’re smirking with suspicion, that’s OK. As I noted previously, it’s all ridiculous but very entertaining, thanks to some great direction by Justin Lin and a script filled with witty dialogue, more than you might expect from a flashy car film.

Yes, one chase after the other through the streets and favelas of Rio, in so many crazy ways, this film is a havoc-strewn road of gas-guzzling fun. Perhaps, after releasing the first four of the franchise, the producers finally buckled down and worked out the kinks.

Take the stunts, for instance. As Dom and Brian steal cars from a speeding train, there appears a Mad Max-style SUV that they use to hijack the vehicles. Very clever. Then they careen over a cliff from their stolen vehicle into a river hundreds of feet below. I swear, everyone in the theater went, “Whoa!”

As for an ending, try to imagine Dom and Brian hurtling through Rio with a gigantic safe cabled to their cars. Now, when have you ever seen that in the movies? Oh, glorious destruction.

My wife will tell you, though, that the guy who revs this movie is Diesel. Scowling, growling, staring, mumbling, he’s the king of superhuman macho. And not far behind are the cool blue eyes of Walker. For sheer screen presence, think Newman or McQueen.

As I watched all this mayhem, I had to admit that my wife was enjoying herself. I was enjoying myself. And was it my imagination or were Diesel and Walker enjoying themselves? Sure seemed like it. Rio, cars, pretty women. What’s not to like?