Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Fast Five

This list is short on sensitive indie dramas, heavy on mainstream mayhem, but it was that kind of year. The big boys — Hollywood technicians, from FX gurus to stunt choreographers — used their tools with more craft and cojones than the Sundance auteurs. Fast Five, fifth in the Fast & Furious series, is a live-action movie with so much whirling tumult, so many moments of low genius, that it plays like an animated car-toon. The dialogue, characterizations and acting are irrelevant to the success of this first great film of the post-human era. As if recalling the epochal heist in 1903's The Great Train Robbery and, a decade later, the auto carnage of Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops, director Justin Lin goes back to basics with another train robbery and vehicular violence in police rides — souped up and stripped down like stock cars in a death race — on the streets of Rio. A carnival of roguish heroes and pretty girls, car chases and cliffhangers, Fast Five is as much a tribute as The Artist or Hugo to the cinema's primal thrills.