Fast & Furious 5 Changed The Series Forever… And For The Better
From boosting DVD players to tearing down half of Rio, Fast Five kickstarted a new era for the furious familia.
The franchise started life as a fairly shameless Point Break riff, with likeable characters, cool cars and a propensity for ‘hitting the NOS’. Nobody could have predicted its lifespan nearly 20 years later, with the ninth entry featuring John Cena as an evil, never-before-seen brother and, apparently, space travel.
But how did we arrive in this gonzo universe? It certainly wasn’t 2 Fast 2 Furious‘ boat jump, nor was it Tokyo Drift‘s titular drifting or Fast and Furious‘ dip into action – it was Fast Five, a midway launch pad for a series needing a sharp injection of fun, which premiered 10 years ago today.
In The Fast and the Furious, Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) were lowly, local criminals. Barely 10 minutes into the fifth film, they are international fugitives on the run from Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), a fire-and-brimstone ‘old testament’ federal agent who speaks in threats, metaphors and other ‘Hobbspeak’ – ‘If he goes to the John, I wanna know how many times he shakes it,’ for example.
After some moderate inconvenience after a train job goes wrong, a Soderberghian plan is formed: take all the money from the crime lord who wronged them, and form a whip-smart team of hackers, talkers, jokers, muscle and, of course, drivers. This is now the Fast saga blueprint: gather the team, save the world, get richer.
Justin Lin, the series’ most significant director, carried it to its evolution. After Brian chasing a criminal through the streets and buildings in the fourth film, Fast Five has the pulse-pounding, leaping-and-bounding Favela sequence. Without the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette cliff dive, you don’t have Dom saving Letty mid-air in the sixth, and the supercar crashing through three skyscrapers in the seventh.
Also, recovering from the dour tone of Fast and Furious, the fifth film brought the energy of a cheesy 1980s action film with souped-up CGI and a blockbusting budget, somehow managing Fury Road levels of destruction with a wink-wink awareness. From here, the producers had the courage to go crazier, and crazier, and crazier.
There’s also the best RPG in the middle of a South American street since Man on Fire.
The Rock’s introduction could fit in the WWE, warning the scrawny cop to ‘stay the f*ck out of his way’ as he stomps his way down the tarmac like a kaiju en route to Globo Gym. It also puts forward a world where Diesel could go not just toe-to-toe with Johnson, but beat him in a fistfight.
The raw machismo on display harkens back to the glory of Commando‘s ‘Dylan, you son of a b*tch’ handshake. I saw a tweet the other day wishing today’s films made them feel the same way as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action classics did when they were eight. For me, Fast Five and beyond gives me that familiar VHS rush of giddy joy. Nonsense, for lack of a better word, is good.
While bringing the beloved legacy cast together at last, it set a new modus operandi with three rules: physics don’t matter, family means everything, and Corona is the best beer, always. Salud, mi familia.
Fast Five is available to stream on NOW TV.
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