Justin Lin's Fast Five, in theaters today, has a few strikes against it from the start. It's the fifth film in a franchise; said franchise is largely based around the concept of cars that go really, really fast; it contains at least one scene where Vin Diesel gets all up in Dwayne Johnson's face like this. And yet it's getting surprisingly good reviews. (Admittedly, we've only seen the trailer, but the reviews are surprising us.) How are critics, who know from bad movies, justifying their enjoyment of this film?
There's a certain attention to craft. Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times calls Lin "a first-rate director in this second-rate genre... He storyboards his impossible actions sequences, instead of editing them with incomprehensible speed."
It's a story about bros looking out for bros. That's according to Joe Morgenstern at The Wall Street Journal, who praises the movie's "emphasis on family values--not those of the nuclear family, but of hell-raising, drag-racing outlaws who genuinely care for one another."
It's actually figured out things that the first four movies missed. "Name a Hollywood franchise that has produced its finest installment on the fifth try," writes Sean O'Connell at The Washington Post. "It's tough to do, right? ... But the burly, brawny Fast Five bucks the trend." (Naturally, it does this by "shifting into a previously untapped gear"--car metaphors kind of come with the territory here.)
It satisfies the primal instincts. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman writes that "Fast Five is high-octane trash," but at the climactic moment of a chase scene, "you will go 'Ohhhhhh!'" Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club concurs, calling Fast Five "lizard-brain escapism--and there's something unsettling about how it lays waste to Rio's desperately poor favelas--but nonsense this well-orchestrated is a rare and precious thing."