Thursday, 5 May 2011

Fast Five; what laws of physics?

Comparatively few people watch Tom and Jerry cartoons for the dialogue, and I don't think any sensible person is checking out Fast Five in the hope that it contains a previously unfilmed Joss Whedon script, still less Shakespeare. However, even by that stunningly low standard, Fast Five is a film that would be truer to its nature if someone just edited out all the dialogue scenes until there was nothing left but car chases and explosions. It would also be a lot shorter and a lot more fun to watch, since there'd be nothing left but the good stuff.

It's a movie where it's best to check your brain at the door, but that's not much of a surprise. I was swayed by the fact that it was getting enthusiastic write-ups as a superior action movie, and there was literally nothing else on within easy reach of the third floor operations room, not since the sinister minions of the puppet administration blew up the road link to the nearest outpost of civilisation, or at least of Burger Kings that open after 530 in the evening. So I braved the witty banter of the locals (I hate to say this, but from my conversation with the people in the queue in front of me, the collective IQ of every other patron in the cinema may have been less than mine: and I was stupid enough to go to a Vin Diesel movie with my own money) and laid my money down.

It all lived down to my expectations. The point of Paul Walker has always eluded me, and in a perfect world Vin Diesel would be the spokesman for whatever company makes Mr Potato Head, but I knew that going in, and just waited for the stunts. Having seen the first Fast and Furious movie, I nurse the mad idea that if you somehow mashed Vin and Paul Walker together you might get some kind of off-brand Jason Statham, but even if it didn't work out that way, at least you'd have mashed Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and the world would be a better place to that extent. While I'm talking trash about the cast, I'd never wondered what Demi Moore would have looked like without any lips, but apparently someone WAS wondering about that, and made Jordana Brewster. There was something weirdly distracting about her scenes, perhaps because I'm blessed with just enough survival instinct to know that in the real world when you can see that little lip on a girl, you need to be getting way the hell out of her reach. The only thing narrower than her lips was her pregnancy; she spends the movie Hollywood pregnant, that wonderfully weird state where you're still a size zero, but you get sick at plot convenient moments.

But you were presumably wondering about the stunts. I know I was. They're actually great fun, if you can just switch your mind off. Mythbusters has kind of ruined a lot of these things for me. The big finish has Vin and Paul towing a ten ton safe through Rio behind two muscle cars, and when I wasn't wondering just how much all of that COST, I was distracted by my knowledge of what actually happens to steel cables when you put a car at one end and an immovable object at the other. The cable flat out breaks, every time. I've since had it pointed out to me in someone else's blog that the cable is the least of it. Long before the cable takes up the strain, you've got the question of how the friction of a 10 foot square lump of steel on concrete can be overcome by the friction of about four square feet (max) of hot rubber. Because unless a ton and half of car on four tires has a better grip on the tarmac than ten tons of dead weight, the wheels are just going to spin, aren't they? Still, you gotta switch off that thinking part of the brain and enjoy it all. (A piece of me still thinks that it wouldn't have been that difficult to put wheels under the damn safe and just short circuit that quibble).

The last stunt sequence does have a neat twist in it, which I didn't quite see coming. I knew something was up, because there's a moment early on in the chase where a vehicle appears which doesn't need to be there, and my sense of the conservation of money told me that everything I could see on the screen was there because it had been put there by the stunt arrangers, so that big garbage truck had to have a reason to be there. I felt weirdly clever ten minutes or so later when it turned out to be quite important. If I'd had my full complement of working brain cells by that stage, I might even have figured out the whole thing, but by that stage I'd been bludgeoned into moderate insensibility by the torrent of splashy images and dumb exposition.

Fast Five is apparently available in Imax, but the ideal way to watch it is probably at home, on a large TV connected to a DVD player which lets you edit out all the talky bits.

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