Early on in the propulsive and cheeky-cool Fast Five, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, our awesomely photogenic heroes, steal a very expensive sports car off a moving train. They tear the side of the train off, drive the auto away, and then zoom it over a cliff. That last bit isn’t really part of the plan — it’s just what happens — and when they escape in free fall, with a stomach-dropping whoosh, plunging into a space vast and wide enough to be the air above the Grand Canyon, it’s like that daredevil leap in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There’s barely a sound except for the audience going ”Ohhhhhh!” Now, that’s entertainment. It’s what keeps so many of us coming back to the Fast/Furious franchise: the vicarious promise of cheating death, all executed in such a casual, youthful fashion that it could almost be a dance move.
Directed by the flashy and gifted Justin Lin (who also helmed the series’ previous two entries), Fast Five isn’t a hotdogging road-race movie until the very end. It’s set amid the squalor of Rio, with its teeming vertical slums, and it’s basically a heist thriller in which the insult-swapping gang members, led by Diesel and his invincible growl, are hired to steal a drug lord’s fortune from the vault of a police station. The film is basically Ocean’s Fourteen starring a multiculti version of the cast of Jersey Shore. The final chase — it features cars and that vault — is badass heaven. Fast Five is high-octane trash, but you will go ”Ohhhhhh!” B+