FAST FIVE is the perfect way to kick start the 2011 summer movie season and is simply a fun ride. The fifth installment of the Fast and Furious series is by far the best and most action packed of the bunch. This feels much more like a reboot of sorts rather than a full on sequel. While there are references to past movies, newcomers will not feel left out and be able to jump on board right away. Justin Lin (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, FAST AND FURIOUS) returns to the series for the third time and brings along original cast members Vin Diesel (PITCH BLACK, XXX) and Paul Walker (RUNNING SCARED, TAKERS) along with a handful of other characters from previous “Fast” films AND The Rock! FAST FIVE has everything you would want out of a summer movie; bad ass characters, a cool setting featuring awesome set pieces, and loads of intense non-stop action! The films focus is less on car racing and more on balls to the wall action.

Vin Diesel returns as the tough as nails outlaw Dominic Toretto and is in perfect form here. He is a likable character who is fun to root for in a fist fight or a car chase. Toretto has definitely evolved from an overprotective bad ass to a softy who can still kick some ass when needed. Paul Walker returns as undercover cop turned outlaw who just so happens to have the hots for Toretto’s lil sister. A fun dynamic indeed. Over the course of these films they have all come together and their bond is most evident in this film as they feel like a real family. The others players (most from previous films) all come together here to make a great ensemble cast. There are a lot of jokes between the characters that add to their likability and I feel that each of them get a moment to shine or make us laugh. Newcomer to the series Dwane “The Rock” Johnson (THE RUNDOWN, WALKING TALL) finally makes his true comeback to action (along with his previous film FASTER) as a relentless federal agent named Hobbs who will stop at nothing to stop Toretto and his gang from getting away. I have to say that Johnson’s addition to this franchise is more than fitting and he is a total bad ass here contributing to a lot of the films greatest moments and one liners. “Now gimme the veggies!” Welcome back my friend.

Since Toretto’s crew is on top of America’s most wanted list, they have made their way to the lush landscape of Rio de Janeiro. The scenery in this film is always beautiful and vibrant. Here they are running from the law and drug lords all while figuring out a plan to buy back their freedom. There are a crap ton of people chasing these guys with big ass guns and the stunts they need to pull off throughout this film involves some serious action.

FAST FIVE has really redefined itself here as a true action movie instead of a movie about racing. I am a HUGE fan of the action genre and must say that this is one of the best pure action movies I have seen in a long time. Right from the start we are treated to one awesome action scene after another. We get everything in this movie from intense fist fights, daredevil escapes, thrilling chases (on foot AND in cars!), awesome explosions, and even some things I never would have thought of! On top of all that, we get to see Diesel and Johnson go toe to toe in an all out brawl. That is a match I have always dreamt of seeing on the big screen and it has made one of my wet nerd dreams come true. My jaw dropped more than once during this film and it felt like an adrenaline ride that I want to go on again and again. The pure frequency and quality of the action scenes here make the pacing of this movie run ever so smooth. Running at 2 hours and 10 minutes (long for a pure action movie), I never felt bored or eager. Without spoiling any of the highlights, I will just say that if you go into this movie expecting amazing action sequences you will get just that and then some. Truly awesome stuff here!

Once the credits rolled I realized that THIS is what going to the movies in the summer is all about. I had a complete blast with FAST FIVE and would recommend it to anyone looking for the next best thing in action. Director Justin Lin proves that this franchise is far from dead and has successfully rebooted itself as an intense action movie series that is sure to see some sequels (stay tuned after the credits). The cast does a fantastic job being funny, bad ass, and likable. The settings and locations are beautiful and well shot. And above all, the action sequences and mayhem thrown at us in this movie are simply awesome. FAST FIVE is a ride well worth taking.

Final Score: 9 out of 10