Blu-Ray Review: Blockbuster ‘Fast Five’ is Addictive Escapist Ride

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CHICAGO – “Fast Five,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, is one of the most interesting pop culture phenomena of 2011. All of us who complain that sequels are never good and that films usually get worse as a franchise gets older had to admit that this was the exception to the rule. Not only the most critically-acclaimed film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, it also became the highest-grossing in the series, making an AMAZING $620 million worldwide and currently ranking fifth on the year in domestic gross. This was a monster hit in every way and I’m pretty sure fans of it will want to include it in their Blu-ray collection in that action movies are often the most-rented and most-purchased on the home market. People love to watch their favorite action flicks over and over again and “Fast Five” is many buyer’s favorite of 2011 to date. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

In booming HD sound and with crystal clear video, “Fast Five” is the kind of movie which you need to turn up loud and turn off your brain. It is pure escapism and, judged on those terms, it totally works. Critics are often accused of being cynical, of losing touch with what mainstream audiences are looking for in an action movie. And yet, most critics correctly recognized that “Fast Five” was, above all else and above most of the movies this year, FUN. Yes, it defies logic at every turn (you could get wasted with a drinking game based purely on how many times Paul Walker’s character should be dead from a jump that would kill any man) and features dialogue that sounds like it was written by a 12-year-old, but that pre-teen knows how to conceive, stage, and execute what really matters in a movie like this — ACTION.

Fast Five was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 4th, 2011
Fast Five was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 4th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

Plot recap from my theatrical review:

“The opening scene of the fifth (and best) film in the series features Brian (Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) breaking Dominic (Vin Diesel) out of a prison transport. Some time later, the two accomplices mosey on down to Rio (a great setting for a film like this one) at the behest of Vince (Matt Schulze, who hasn’t been in one of these movie since the first, “The Fast and the Furious”). He’s got a gig and he knows the on-the-run Brian and Mia could use the money. Of course, Dom shows up to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

If it EVER went off without a hitch, there wouldn’t be five movies in this series. After an amazing sequence involving multiple cars, a truck going into the side of a train, and a cliff dive that should have killed both participants, our three heroes find themselves the targets of both a Rio crime kingpin (Joaquim de Almeida) and the federal agents sent to capture Dominic and Brian. The latter are led by the moving brick wall known as Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who partners up with the gorgeous local Elena (Elsa Pataky).

Fast Five was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 4th, 2011
Fast Five was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 4th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

To get revenge on the kingpin and yet stay one step ahead of the international law, Dominic and Brian need to call in some reinforcements. Enter a cast of familiar faces from the franchise including Roman (Tyrese Gibson, absent since “2 Fast 2 Furious”), Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, also missing in action since #2), Han (Sung Kang, from “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “Fast & Furious”), Gisele (Gal Gadot, from the last film), and Leo (Tego Calderon) & Santos (Don Omar). The crew plans to steal $100 million. Of course, the plan involves a lot of fast cars.”

For the first time in the series, director Justin Lin seems to recognize that these movies need to be ridiculous to work. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and simply tosses out suspension of disbelief. Everyone is trying to kill our heroes and they just stole four cop cars. Would they drag race those cop cars through Rio? HELL no. But it makes for a great scene if you just toss your disbelief out the window. Don’t just suspend it. Kill it.

When I saw “The Fast and the Furious,” I never would have guessed that I’d be reviewing a fifth film in this franchise only ten years later (and the success of this film makes it very likely that a sixth film is around the corner). After seeing the horrendous “Fast & Furious,” I thought I’d never see another film in the franchise. Now, I kind of can’t wait to see this one again.

Now that I’ve been given that chance to see “Fast Five” again on Blu-ray, I wondered if my original praise would hold up. It totally does. This is just as fun and escapist as you remember and the Universal Blu-ray amply assists the film in what really works about it. It’s the kind of movie for which amped up video and audio couldn’t be more important. I can’t understand people watching something this larger-than-life on an iPhone. Find the biggest TV you can get your hands on and the most supercharged audio system and turn it up. Scare the neighbors.

As for special features, they’re pretty strong although somewhat annoyingly organized. I can’t stand mini-featurettes that don’t feature a Play All function. Why push people back to a menu every 5-7 minutes? It’s just weird. The deleted scenes and gag reel are kind of annoying too but no one can deny the quantity of material, including an audio commentary by Lin. Like the movie itself, the Blu-ray is about excess with a barely-different extended version, DVD version, and digital copy. Five movies in and this franchise isn’t just going strong it’s ready to take over your Blu-ray player.

“Fast Five” stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Joaquim de Almeida, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataky, and Dwayne Johnson. It was written by Chris Morgan and directed by Justin Lin. It is rated PG-13 and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 4th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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