I knew this was bound to happen. Every time I shave my head, a Vin Diesel movie releases. And no matter how many times I swear I didn't do it on purpose, my friends give me a smirk and an all-knowing nod of the head.

I may not be fanatic enough to shave my head to resemble that of a certain Mr. Diesel, but I'll be the first to agree he has got bucketloads of charisma.

Justin Lin, who directed Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) and Fast and Furious (2009), is at his 'oh-my-god-did-I-just-see-it-right' best. The new movie starts off right where it ended in 2009, with former FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) leading a daring assault on a prison transport bus carrying Dominic 'Dom' Toreto (Vin Diesel).

They go their separate ways and decide to meet up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brian and Dominic's sister Mia, who are lovers, take on an assignment to steal three cars from aboard a moving train. Understandably, and for the movie to move forward, the operation goes horribly wrong. They are met by Dominic on the train.

One thing leads to another, as it should in action movies, and they are on the run from the police and Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a corrupt businessman whose word means law in Rio. Enter US Diplomatic Security Service special agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson), an un-corruptible tough cop, who is also hot on their heels.

Dominic and Brian find a computer chip, hidden in the car, which pinpoints locations for hoards of cash stashed away by Hernan. They make a plan to steal the dough and disappear "forever".

For the mission, they assemble a crack unit of operatives, thus reuniting their entire team from all previous movies. What follows is a hectic 90 minutes, replete with fantastical action sequences, witty one-liners, lots of hot wheels and the need for speed. At the end of it all, you sit and marvel at the ingenuity and improbability of it all.

With dud sequels and three-quels raining down in Hollywood nowadays, Fast Five is a textbook example of how to revitalize a franchise and launch it afresh. Lin pulled off a spectacular stunt by moving away from the tried-and-tested theme of underground street racing, to that of a heist movie, a la Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. And going by the full house and audience applause during several key moments in the film, it is safe to assume the director has another winner on hand. Roping in The Rock proved a masterstroke. His character is earthy, identifiable and oozes testosterone. A dragged-out fistfight between the two male lead characters produced audible 'oohs and aahs' from among the audience. If that's not a sign of the movie's success, I don't know what is.

As is the case with any successful franchise, life has to go on after the final reel is played. And there has to be indications of a new beginning. The director does it by hiding a secret scene after the credits have all rolled out. And that single scene, which lasts just over a minute, is enough to make fans wait in anticipation for years, until the next movie of the series is ready.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, in their first-ever movie match-up, makes Fast five the not-to-miss phenomenon of the year. Leave your brains behind and enjoy this ride which gets as fast as it gets furious.

–    Taita TS

Fast Five is now showing at cinemas across the Gulf and at Cinescape theatres in Kuwait.

Images: IMDb.com

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