FAST FIVE (2011) strikes me as a game-changer for the Fast and Furious franchise, replacing the usual formula of street racing and scantily clad women (there’s one brief scene of that and the race takes place off-camera) with a caper film. Following directly on the ending for Fast & Furious, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker relocate to Brazil. Instead of hiding out, they find themselves in the gunsights of Brasilia’s most powerful crimelord and of Dwayne Johnson as a federal agent out to drag them back to stand trial.
The solution? Rip off the crimelord’s money from an impregnable vault at police headquarters, thereby giving them enough cash to retire beyond the reach of any of their pursuers. This requires bringing together most of the cast members from the first four films (Gail Godot is the standout name) and culminates with literally tearing the vault out of the police building and dragging it behind their cars through the street. The filmmakers were obviously prepared for this to be the last in the series — it has the kind of happy ending that could resolve everything but doesn’t rule out more sequels — but shifting things up clearly worked, given how many more sequels we’ve had. “This just went from Mission Impossible to Mission In-Freaking-Sanity!”
The French film La Femme Nikita inspired both the U.S. Point of No Return and the Chinese THE BLACK CAT (1990), which I caught last weekend. Like the other films (and the Peta Wilson TV show) this has a female drifter kill a cop, go to jail, then get recruited by a black ops group as a counter-terrorist assassin. Unlike what I remember of the others the protagonist here is a formidable killer even before she gets trained; said training includes an implanted microchip that enhances her performance but I honestly don’t see much difference. Not up to the French original. “From this moment on, we’re the only ones who can help you.”
Alfred Hitchcock had wanted Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman for the lead roles in The Paradine Case; in 1949, he got to use them both in UNDER CAPRICORN but that didn’t help this turkey. Michael Wilding plays a younger son of the aristocracy, arriving in 1800s Sydney to make his fortune. He becomes a friend and business associate to surly Joseph Cotton, a former groom turned convict who’s now a wealthy landowner; complicating things is Wilding’s crush on Cotton’s alcoholic wife, Ingrid Bergman, whom he knew from childhood. This was based on a well-regarded historical novel (adapted for Aussie TV in the 1980s if you’re curious) but it doesn’t work at all, and both Cotton and Bergman feel miscast in their roles. With Cecil Parker as the pompous Aussie governor, I’m inclined to suggest The Court Jester as a double bill for his equally unappealing leader there. “A gentleman’s word in Australia doesn’t mean much.”
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