Faster the Fifth Time Around the Track

If you want brains, “Fast Five” — the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” series — isn’t for you. As expected, the flick is set on mouth-gaping action, though with a fun heist premise and a colorful setting, it proves to be a gripping addition to the franchise.

The movie begins where the fourth installment, “Fast & Furious,” ended and before “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” begins, with the street-racing crew coming together for “one last job” (of course, with a sequel already in the works, it’s obviously not).

We’re still following the fast and furious drivers we met 10 years ago — Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) — along with some newbies from the more recent installments (Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris reprise their roles from “2 Fast 2 Furious”; Sung Kang from “Tokyo Drift” is featured as well).

This movie gets down to basics: money, violence and cars. They’re going to steal every cent that belongs to Rio de Janeiro’s highest- ranking crime boss, thereby ensuring some kind of peace for the Brazilians (maybe) and getting revenge for this or that personal injustice. Though the crime has gone from stealing cars to stealing money, don’t expect “Ocean’s 14”: These criminals live by the motto of “go big or go home,” and they don’t plan on going home anytime soon.

Brian, Mia and Dom also have to escape some pesky law enforcement (cue a really use- less performance by The Rock as a DSS agent). This is where the moral message of the story gets a little skewed. (Yes, it’s hard to believe, but there is a moral here — or there was, at some point.) Dom wants to buy their freedom in the first half of the film, but in the second, he stresses that they can’t run away from what they started. The blindingly bright cross gracing his neck doesn’t seem to give him clarity, but it does remind us that, gosh darn it, he’s a good Catholic boy through and through.

The lines of morality blur a little here, but the audience can judge for themselves whether these are good people with bad impulses or criminals to the core. And in typical “Fast and Furious” style, the movie’s riddled with crazy awesome car chases and races, often with creations that you’re not entirely sure fall under the category of “car.” (Special effects sure have come a long way since the franchise’s 2001 debut.)

“Fast Five” boasts all the strengths that have allowed the series to endure the past decade — and as long as you’re not expecting depth of plot and serious character development, the explosions have more than enough testosterone to keep your blood thumping. (B)

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