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Cinema Signal: The action is good enough to make acting irrelevant and earns the film a hot green without a citation!
. "Fast Five"

If you're wondering if this franchise's tank can be filled up one more time (#5) let me assure you that someone slipped in some jet fuel. Knowing full well that a series like this usually gets old by the third, the creators took out some insurance in the form of a win in the can-you-top-this world of action. This is on the border line of reality, fantasy and just plain nonsense, but there's joy in the never-attempted-before incredibility of its stunt work. "Fast Five" asks how much overload can the audience take before it'll all crumble in a heap of silliness, but it offers enough to remove any danger of that on the track these guys own.

On the human side, where you might find a story, characters and a lot of dialogue, director Justin Lin and writers Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson expended a great deal of effort to shape the metal into a Diesel chapter that presses every one of the series' buttons. In this they score big.

Super-buff ex-con Dom Toretto (Diesel) and ace wheelman ex-cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) are still in that space between law and criminality as they pursue justice where corruption and money prevail. One of the elements that gave this series uniqueness and originality, the romance between O'Conner and Toretto's sister whom he will protect and defend against all challenges, pays off big here as the couple take it to the fifth level. They are going to have a baby and uncle Dom couldn't be happier. There's no longer any enmity in this family.

The first action sequence occurs on a train carrying some of the best wheels ever impounded by a crime lord fronting as a businessman. This smoothie is Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), whose operations rake in more money than anyone in his base town, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a good part of it is off the poor in the favelas. He's smart and ruthless enough to spread the corruption around--he also has the local police and the military in his back pocket. Dom and Brian don't figure they can let him and his gang of thugs take this particular swag out of the U.S. How they set up to recapture it is, to say the least, daring.

The key to the action is twofold: the enormity of the concepts... and the attitude behind them. Simply and pure, it amounts to a never-go-down-defeated credo. One impossibility of gravity and other principles of physics leads to others, and then more. You're suddently forgetting all the previous great action sequences you thought were the best in wreckage, tonnage and speed. This crowd has spared nothing.

And that's only the first action sequence.

Reyes, of course, isn't happy about what Dom and his friends have done with his property. His men manage to capture Dom and Brian, leading to a bound confrontation that implies just how ruthless the big honcho is, and how important it is that he be taken down. It isn't long before they break free of their shackles and get out of town to plot their next move.

But Reyes, through his contacts in law enforcement, has brought in the Feds, who send their elite unit to find the errant car thieves and capture them for good. This team is led by the most fearsome operative in the annals of the agency, Hobbs (fearsome Dwayne Johnson). If there's anyone who would even the odds of a martial arts contest with Dom--murderous strength for murderous strength--it's this hard-nosed dude. And, that day will come.

But, now, Dom has a plan and he will not be denied by anyone aligned against him. In an "Oceans Eleven" move, he puts together a team of ace racers with unique areas of expertise in addition to their driving skills (all characters from prior chapters).

Call this film, "Dom's Eight." Plenty to wrangle about; plenty of jokey dialogue with which to play off each other as they plot out and pull off the caper of the century. Let's just say it involves gorgeous women, a LOT of money and many more tons of metal.

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The acting is merely what it needs to be. The film has a sense of humor as well as a good take on its audience. It knows what it takes to get the buzz going and they spare no effort and money to do it. Expectations WILL be satisfied. The appearance of powerhouse Johnson to give Diesel a physical challenge is played to the hilt and has a twinge of genius in this context. Played for fun, and fun it is.

It's the drive of the year. In the end, inspired action choreography, macho mentality, aggressive stunt work and nimble editing rule. Some may carp about a low-brow range of appeal, its simplistic this and overplayed that. All I can say is that despite a few sluggish moments, it had me and it left me all revved up.

I can't help wondering what they'll come up with for "Six" to keep their own standards going. What I take from this is, they'll put a lot of muscle into it, and take a lot of gravity out.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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"Dom's Eight" (with only one missing from this picture).
Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, (unknown), Sung Kang, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot and Vin Diesel.

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