Fast & Furious 5 (2011) was where the series started pivoting towards what ‘Roman’ (Tyrese Gibson) succinctly describes as “some 007-type shit”, adulterating the street-car racing antics with increasingly absurd physics-defying set-pieces and spy-fi shenanigans. Nothing makes any damn sense if you think about it for longer than a second, but it’s the sort of hilariously fun screen-candy that makes me thrill at the eye-popping spectacle, even as I’m laughing at the stupidity of it. And veteran director Justin Lin is well aware that his movies scoff at reality, but he seems quite sincere in his commitment to the core characters and their relationships, even if he does apply the “Rule of Cool” to pretty much everything/everyone else… such as in F&F5 and F&F6, where the villains both start out as ruthless-but-shrewd pragmatists, before going bat-crap-crazy and throwing everything at the wall in the third act, so that the film-makers can stage bigger and louder finales.
Anyhoo, F&F5 finds ‘Dom’ (Vin Diesel), ‘Brian’ (Paul Walker), and ‘Mia’ (Jordana Brewster) tearing around Rio, attempting to steal $100 million from a corrupt businessman (Joaquim de Almeida), while being pursued by a relentless (and intimidating) federal agent named ‘Luke Hobbs’, played by newcomer Dwayne Johnson. Our anti-heroes are abetted by various returning characters, including the ever-living ‘Han’ (Sung Kang), and the gun-happy ‘Gisele’ (Gal Gadot). Hurrah! Lin notes on the commentary track how proud he is to be able to discover/cast actresses from around the world, such as Gadot and Elsa Pataky (who plays ‘Elena Neves’, a local police officer working with Hobbs, while pursuing a dangerous romance with Dom)… which is very commendable, but he also claims that he tried to tailor the script to showcase Gadot’s strengths as an actor, and that the scene of her acquiring the villain’s finger-prints by strutting up to him in a skimpy bikini and allowing him to grope her bottom is somehow “empowering”, because she’s playing him for an idiot! M’kay.
He also highlights Brewster’s bravery/tenacity for performing a risky roof-jump despite having cut her hands just before the stunt… and on the F&F1-6 boxset’s bonus disc, the actress picks this as her proudest/happiest memory from the first six movies, because she toughed it out with an injury and “earned her stripes” (she also notes that Walker was very patient and sweet with her). Aside from the action, Lin commends the delivery of Mia’s pregnancy reveal, and stresses how much importance they all placed on the actors’ performances in these quieter emotional scenes, between all the flash-bangs. Still, the most suprising/exciting twist for me came during a post-credits scene (featuring an uncredited cameo by Eva Mendes), in which it’s revealed that somehow ‘Letty’ (Michelle Rodriguez) has returned from the grave. Gasp!