The returning audience for the seemingly endless The Fast And The Furious franchise is a loud and emphatic bunch. Roars of applause and murmurs of “Oh, shit!” greet each car race and automotive chase scene. Those who know the lyrics to the reggaeton and hip-hop record that play throughout the franchise spit along with the soundtrack, while those who don’t simply nod their heads. Girls ignore the acting deficiencies of marquee players Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and swoon every time the former rocks a tank-top and the latter romances Jordana Brewster. As for the fellas, the cars are badass and the nameless and scantily-clad groupies flanking the rides welcome bonuses.

fast-five-review-insertSeeing a new Fast And Furious movie is an excuse to shut one’s brain off, sip on overpriced soda, and watch ridiculously unrealistic action unfold at the hands of underwritten and physically attractive actors. And no one knows this better than Justin Lin, the director of 2006’s The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, 2009’s Fast & Furious, and the latest entry into the consistently profitable series, Fast Five. After John Singleton’s amateurish 2 Fast 2 Furious, the direct sequel to the 2001 game-starter, The Fast And The Furious, the movies have advanced in both quality and ambition, a telltale sign that Lin is emerging as an action filmmaker to be reckoned with.

Fast Five, easily the best film of the entire series (original included), is Lin’s official coming-of-age work, a breathless concoction of top-of-the-line action sequences, vibrant energy, and forgivable absurdity. It’s the ultimate love letter to the franchise’s loyal fans, bringing back key players from all of the previous installments for a slick Ocean’s Eleven-styled reinvention. Car culture is an afterthought in Fast Five, a sleek heist movie that just so happens to feature some nice-looking wheels. The script, the third of the series written by Chris Morgan, is rather ludicrous and the line deliveries are undeniably stilted, but potential Writer’s Guild awards aren’t what Fast Five is about; it’s a glossy piece of crowd-pleasing escapism, and by that measure Lin’s popcorn treat delivers in spades.

To tweak the Fast And Furious model, Lin and Morgan wisely relocate the story to scenic Rio, where the stacked, hillside houses provide Diesel and company the proper setting for kinetic foot chases, of which there are many in Fast Five. Former lawman Brian O’Conner (Walker) and his now-pregnant chick, Mia Torreto (Brewster) are hiding out in Brazil after the prison-bus-break they’ve orchestrated frees Mia’s brother Dom (Diesel) and sends the trio to the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

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