Tipping our hat to one of the most successful franchises in movies, the “movie pick of the week” is Fast Five (2011) starring Vin Diesel. While this isn’t the most sophisticated choice in cinema, we would be fooling ourselves to say this movie is without its merits. The movie is fittingly fast paced and action packed, never allowing the audience to take a break from the gravity defying stunts they do nearly every scene. Being the fifth installment in the franchise, we are already familiar with the characters so there is no need to get bogged down in wasteful backstory. Wanting to start a new life with the money of a crime kingpin they are going to heist, Dom and the gang travel to Rio for one last job.
Now the main reason this is our movie of the week is the setting. Most if not all of the movie takes place in beautiful Rio de Genaro, Brazil. The movie constantly contrasts Rio’s beautiful scenery and history with its more forgotten aspects. While the bright city is filled with the affluent and corrupt, the more modest citizenry live in the shanty’s and stress the importance of family. The movie attempts to paint a blurring gray picture of law enforcement and the so called criminals they are chasing.
The movie is often carried by its main antagonist Herman Reyes played by Joaquim de Almeida. Almeida is imposing throughout the film. The entire time the audience is watching they are dreading the moment he finally catches the protagonists. His cold and calculating approach to hiding his money and killing anyone who gets in his way truly exemplifies a “Fast and Furious” villain. His iron fist over Rio is constantly looming over the protagonists, shown as they are constantly moving from location to location at risk of their lives.
Lucky for all of us, the stunning Elsa Lafuente Medianu plays Rio police officer Elena Neves. Bringing some much need heart and elegance into the movie, Elena serves somewhat of a foil to the antagonist Reyes. Considering most of the law enforcement in under the thumb of Reyes, Elena stands out as someone who shares the same familial values as the main characters. While Reyes represents society’s powerful vicious underbelly, Elena exemplifies the benevolence and caring that power has the potential to represent.
Fast Five is great movie. It is one of the better movies of the “Fast” franchise, sporting a unique setting and tone that feels absent from its other installments. The ending and climax of the movie is some of the best stuff action movies have to offer. The characters they introduce are colorful and interesting, often eclipsing the franchise characters that people come to see the movie for. All in all, highly recommended.