INTRO: Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner head down to Rio for the fifth entry in the Fast and Furious franchise. The most popular of the sequels, this one reunites Dom and Brian with several friends from previous films. Brings Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into the ensemble. And takes the whole series in a new direction. The movie is Fast Five, and it’s about to be REVISITED.
SET-UP: Justin Lin thought he was done with the Fast and Furious movies after directing two of them. But while doing press for the fourth film in the series in 2009, he met a lot of passionate fans who had him re-thinking his plan to step away. And then Universal not only promised that the filmmaker would be able to do something different with the fifth film – they demanded that it be something different. In late 2009, Adam Fogelson was hired as the chairman of Universal, with Donna Langley as co-chair. They could see that Fast and Furious was an important franchise for the studio… but also that it had limited appeal. If the movies continued to focus on street racing, there was a ceiling on how many people would want to see them. By making this more of an action franchise, they could draw in a larger audience.
Fogelson told Deadline, “We wanted to see if we could raise it out of being about racing and make car driving ability just a part of the movie. Like those great chases in The French Connection, The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job.”
The first step in this transition would be to make Fast Five a heist film. The idea that the franchise would always be changing was very appealing to Lin. He was on board to make a sequel that would feature more action. Bigger set pieces. Including some sequences that wouldn’t even involve cars at all. And at the same time, he wanted to stick to the franchise’s core theme of family. This sequel would be about the found family at the heart of the story seeking their freedom. And they were going to bring back as many members of that family as possible. After two sequels where characters from the first film had gone their separate ways, the fourth movie was a reunion. Vin Diesel was back as criminal street racer Dominic Toretto. Paul Walker was back as conflicted lawman Brian O’Conner. Jordana Brewster as Dom’s sister and Brian’s love interest Mia. All three sharing the screen again. Fast Five would reunite them with more of their co-stars. Matt Schulze returns as the short-tempered Vince from part 1. Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are back as Brian’s pals from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Roman and Tej. Sung Kang reprises the role of Han. Who was introduced in Tokyo Drift and was seen riding with Dom in Fast and Furious. Sure, Han was killed in Tokyo Drift, but we needed more time with the character. So now these movies are happening before the events of the third film, just to accommodate him. Tego Calderón and
Don Omar are back as the comedic duo of Leo and Santos, who were introduced in Fast and Furious. And so is Gal Gadot as Gisele, who also entered the picture in the fourth movie. She was working for a heroin smuggler in that movie, but really, she had a heart of gold.
Also back was Chris Morgan, the writer of the third and fourth movies. He crafted the heist story that brings all the characters back together… And while doing so, he was able to use an idea he had while writing part 4. He had envisioned a sequence where Dom and Brian would be seen dragging a bank vault behind their vehicles. That visual didn’t fit into the fourth movie, but it would be perfect for the heist movie sequel. Walker heard early on that the fifth movie would be set in Europe. As the story developed, the setting moved to a different continent. The film begins right where Fast and Furious left off. With Dom sentenced to prison, his cohorts decide to rescue him from a transport bus. And in doing so, cause a crash that’s very reminiscent of a scene from Another 48 Hours. Jump ahead a bit of time and Dom, Brian, and Mia have made their way from California down to Rio. They’re on the run and in need of cash. And Rio resident Vince has a job for them to do. They’ve been hired to retrieve three cars that were seized by the DEA. The complication: these cars are on a moving train. Things get worse when it’s revealed they’re working for a shady benefactor. Who has DEA agents on the train murdered, and intends to kill off his own car thieves. Our heroes manage to escape with their lives… And with a chip that is very important to their employer. Revealed to be rich and powerful drug lord Hernan Reyes, played by Desperado villain Joaquim de Almeida. To strike back against Reyes, Dom and Brian assemble a team of their associates. And start planning a heist that will involve them stealing one hundred million dollars of Reyes’s ill-gotten gains. They manipulate the situation so that Reyes will empty out his cash houses and consolidate his money in one location. They just didn’t expect that location to be a vault inside a police station.
Causing more trouble for our street racing thieves is the fact that they’re taking the blame for the deaths of those DEA agents. A Diplomatic Security Service task force has been sent to Brazil to track them down. And they’re led by the legendary Luke Hobbs, a tracker who never misses his mark. This role was originally being developed with Tommy Lee Jones in mind. Which would have been too on-the-nose, as he would have basically been reprising his role from The Fugitive. When Diesel noticed fans on Facebook saying they wanted to see him and Dwayne Johnson in a movie together, the character was reworked for The Rock. And Johnson hit the gym even harder to put on thirty pounds of muscle, making sure his character would seem intimidating. Hobbs is actually a much more formidable antagonist than bad businessman Reyes. But he’s not a bad guy. He believes Dom, Brian, and the rest are cold- blooded criminals. He has been tasked with bringing them to justice. And he’s determined to do his job.
When Hobbs gets to Brazil, he brings local police officer Elena Neves onto his team as an interpreter. Hobbs trusts Elena because her husband was an officer who was killed in the line of duty. She can’t be bought. But it only takes one meeting with Dom for Elena – who is played by Elsa Pataky – to start doubting that he’s actually a villain. She even starts wearing the cross necklace that he dropped, setting up a romantic connection between them. Gisele
was attracted to Dom in the previous movie, but he turned her down. So, while the film builds up a different love interest for Dom, Gisele and Han begin their own romance.
Although most of the movie is set in Brazil, only a small portion of filming took place there. The cast and crew grabbed a good amount of exterior shots in Brazil. And Lin filled the movie with shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue to assure viewers this is all happening in Rio. But a lot of the action was shot in Puerto Rico. Like the favela chase sequence and the climactic vault dragging. People involved with the production said that it was easier to film in Puerto Rico. Due to the logistics of getting the equipment to the locations. Having more control over the areas. And having wider streets to race around on. But it also helped that the Puerto Rican government offered eleven million dollars of tax incentives. The abandoned auto shop the team is set up in was actually a train yard in Atlanta, Georgia. And the train robbery was filmed in California… Which is glaringly obvious, because there aren’t any deserts anywhere near Rio.
REVIEW: Although the fourth Fast and Furious had been a reunion film, there was very little joy to be found in it. The set-up was that Dom and Brian were brought back together because Dom’s girlfriend Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, had been murdered. So it wasn’t a happy occasion. Following that dour installment, Fast Five is a great pick-me-up. This movie is a blast to watch. Dom and Brian have put their differences behind them, so it’s fun to see them interact again. And it’s really fun to see them share so many scenes with their friends from the other movies. Everyone bouncing lines off of each other. Having a good time. Forming new friendships. Finding love. And hoping to get rich in the end. It’s a very entertaining to spend time with these characters. They all had their moments in previous films. Now they have some awesome moments together.
This is also a bigger movie than any of the previous installments. It’s packed with action. And while there’s still a whole lot of vehicular mayhem, there are other sources of adrenaline. Shootouts. Explosions. A unique foot chase through a favela that even required Paul Walker to do some parkour training. And a showstopping brawl between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. As Ludacris said, “There hasn’t been anything this big since KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.” Diesel, Johnson, and their stunt doubles spent a week filming that fight. Making it even better is the fact they still found a way to do some character work inside this fight. Years earlier, Dom spent time in prison for beating a person with a wrench. A fact that Hobbs throws in his face during one confrontation. At the end of their fight, Dom has the chance to beat Hobbs with a wrench as well… And chooses not to.
The action starts early and comes frequently. The most expensive set piece was the train robbery. Which took up twenty-five million dollars of the film’s budget. Because the production had to buy their own section of a railway line. And then buy their own train. But this film had the highest budget of a FAST movie yet. One hundred and twenty-five million. Forty million higher than the previous film. So, Lin still had around one hundred million to work with once the train sequence was shot.
Of course, the most memorable sequence is the vault heist. Surprisingly, this was accomplished without ever needing to create a CGI vault. There were six different versions of the vault made to bring the sequence to life. Sometimes it’s a reinforced stunt vault that really is being dragged. Other times, it’s actually a four-wheel drive vehicle that’s just following the Dodge Chargers that appear to be dragging it. It was so hot inside that thing, well over one hundred degrees, that the stunt driver had to wear a special temperature-controlled suit. For some shots of the vault smashing into vehicles, it was a facade built onto the front of a semi truck. Around two hundred vehicles were destroyed during the filming of Fast Five. That vault is responsible for most of the destruction. And it’s very cool to see that destruction on the screen.
There’s such a wide variety of action in this movie, franchise producer Neal H. Moritz seemed to have some concerns. In his audio commentary, Lin said that Moritz kept telling him, “’This doesn’t feel like Fast and Furious!’ He would say that a lot as we were making this film and part of my reaction is, ‘That’s good, because in a way Fast and Furious is evolving. If I feel like it’s appropriate for the movie and it’s good for the characters, it’s good for the story, then that’s great. That means we’re not the same Fast and Furious as we were ten years ago. We weren’t the same as six years ago, as two years ago, and that’s a good thing. He’d be like, ‘Is this Fast and Furious?’ I just kept saying, ‘Look, let’s redefine what that means. We have the core of what Fast and Furious is, but why can’t we grow?’”
LEGACY/NOW: Fast Five is where the franchise truly enters the world of blockbuster spectacles. Some would argue that it went too far with the spectacle in future sequels – but Lin really hit the sweet spot with this one. It’s still recognizably Fast and Furious, it’s just revved up a bit. Blockbuster event movies tend to have longer running times these days, and so does Fast Five. While all four of the previous films fell right in between an hour and forty and an hour and fifty minutes, Fast Five surpasses two hours. Landing at one hundred and thirty minutes. But there’s so much happening, you don’t feel the extra time. It goes by quickly.
This was also the first time Vin Diesel started talking about sequel potential before the movie was even released. He had a history of turning down sequels. When they got him to come back for the fourth movie, it wasn’t certain he’d be back for Fast Five. But he agreed to return – for a producing credit, as he got on the previous movie, and a fifteen million dollar payday. He said he envisioned the story of Dom and Brian playing out as a trilogy. With Fast Five being the final chapter. But he and Moritz started plotting out a sixth film early on. And they also started planning to produce a Hobbs spin-off. Months before Fast Five was released, they already knew exactly what part 6 was going to be. Which is evident in the finished film. Fast Five has a mid-credits scene that sets up the next sequel: Eva Mendes makes a cameo as her 2 Fast 2 Furious character Monica Fuentes. Who has discovered that Rodriguez’s character Letty is still alive somehow. And she’s in Europe.
Of course, there was a chance that Fast Five could flop. Which would have put a stop to the development of part 6. But that didn’t seem likely. This scored higher with test screening audiences than any of the previous Fast and Furious movies. Universal had been planning to give the film a theatrical release in June of 2011. But just like they did with the fourth movie, they decided to move it forward. They’d get a jump-start on the summer movie season by releasing Fast Five in April. And once again, an April release date paid off in a major way.
The fourth movie had been the most successful film in the franchise. One hundred and fifty- five million at the domestic box office. Two hundred and four international. A total of three hundred and fifty-nine million. Fast Five’s box office haul blew those numbers away. This one made over two hundred and ten million domestic. It more than doubled the previous movie’s international box office. Ending up at almost four hundred and twenty internationally. For a total of almost six hundred and thirty million. In addition to the financial success, Fast Five was also a critical success, receiving more positive reviews than any of its predecessors. It was the biggest Fast and Furious movie ever, in more ways than one… So yeah, part 6 was guaranteed after all.
One movie later than originally intended, Fast and Furious did go to Europe… To some degree… For a movie that has the on screen title of Furious 6. Because 2 Fast 2 Furious set it up for the whole franchise to have wacky titles. Dom and Brian would be back, and so would most of their friends. Including Letty, living out a storyline that feels like it was lifted directly from a soap opera. Fast Five was only the biggest Fast and Furious movie until Fast and Furious 6 reached theatres two years later… And we’ll be talking about that movie in the next episode of REVISITED.