By the time you reach the fifth vehicle in a film franchise there is very little room for surprise or expectation. Fans of the Fast and Furious line, which commenced production in 2001, know exactly what they are in for with this fourth sequel, and judging by the audiences' reaction at my preview screening, they couldn't have been more pleased.
Myself, on the other hand, am an F&F L-plater having seen only one of the previous efforts, #3 The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which starred neither originals Paul Walker or Vin Diesel. They're both back for this outing along with some faces whom I suspect are familiar from the previous films. The new addition to the line-up is Dwayne Johnson, all souped-up (and sweating as a result?) as US law enforcement officer Hobbs, called down to Rio De Janeiro when three US DEA agents are killed.
O'Conner (Walker) and Toretto (Diesel), already fugitives from the law, were at the scene of that crime - an automotive deal aboard a moving train gone wrong - which sees them fingered as the bad guys. But rather than skip town, the boys decide to get back at the real villain, Rio businessman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida); hitting his illegal operations and stealing $100 million in cash to be split between themselves and their makeshift crew, called in from around the globe (and previous FF films as mentioned).
Fans of the Fast and Furious films (as suggested) will no doubt be pleased by this outing, although the true rev heads amongst them may be somewhat dismayed by the lack of automotive action. That is until the finale, which sees our heroes literally tearing up the streets of Rio and giving a whole new meaning to the term 'safe driving'.
And, fans rejoice, there's even a post-credit coda hinting at a sixth F&F installment, with the suggestion that Johnson will take the baton from his similarly muscle-bound forebear, Diesel.
A film like Fast and Furious 5 is almost impervious to criticism; it knows what it is, achieves exactly what it sets out to do, and pleases its built-in audience in the process. And despite my unfamiliarity with the franchise, and my general lack of interest in cars – they all look they same to me! – I have to admit, I was neither bored nor insulted by proceedings. I'm not about join the F&F fan club – or study for my license, for that matter – but I'm not going to impound this vehicle either. You'll know if this is the ride for you.