The distinct lack of modified auto mobiles on the road can only mean one thing: the owners have all flocked to see the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise. The street racing action movies that have -ahem- captured the worlds imagination, they have grossed almost $1 billion worldwide to date. In previous instalments, racing and bikini clad babes were the norm, but those looking for pimped out rides and adrenaline fuelled race sequences here will undoubtedly be disappointed. Nevertheless, Rio Heist is a thoroughly enjoyable actioner that is less Fast & Furious and more Oceans Eleven.
Barely 30 seconds in, and we’re treated to a daring escape scene led by former policeman Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker)that sees Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) being ‘rescued’ from a prison transport bus. Once free, the plan was for the men to meet up in South America. But when Brian and his girlfriend Mia Toretto (Dom’s sister, played by Jordana Brewster) arrive in Rio hoping to find Dom with their old friend Vince (Matt Schulze), he says he’s not heard from Dom in weeks. Vince tells Brian the plan that involves stealing cars from a train and Dom turns up to help out, luckily just before the scene fades out. The plan goes awry, and federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; for someone who wanted to shake ‘The Rock’ part of his name, he’s not building a convincing case by returning to wrestling) is drafted in to bring the men to justice. Not only that, but the train job put them on the wrong side of Rio’s most powerful and corrupt businessman who also wants them dead; their freedom lies in his demise.
First things first: I have only ever seen the first film in the series, The Fast & The Furious, so I’m not going to pretend that I knew everything that was going on, or why characters were high fiving each other like best buddies as soon as they met. It’s hardly a sequel of LOTR: The Two Towers proportions though; the story is about as easy to follow as a Dyno-rod van that is leading you to safety. (I don’t know when that scenario will ever arise, but it’s the best simile I could come up with on such short notice). Luckily, the lovely girl who accompanied me to watch this is an absolute expert on all F&F films, having seen Tokyo Drift an incredible six times, so any info I needed to know was only a seat away.One thing is for certain though: there were more suped up rides in the first than this one. Not that I’m complaining: if anything, it was a relief that I wasn’t bombarded with terminology like “CENTRIFUGAL SUPERCHARGER!” or “STOICHIOMETRIC CONDITION!” but instead was met with fantastically choreographed stunts and a confrontation that at least 3 people in the world have waited to see: Vin Diesel vs The Rock.
I won’t give too much away about it, but there’s everything you could expect from these two behemoths: broken walls, bloodied fists and… blatant wrestling manoeuvres. Credit must go to Johnson though: he’s by far the best character. His hilarious responses are whipped out without expression and his take no crap attitude means his presence lights up the screen; this is how he should have acted like in Faster. Diesel lets his fists and driving do all the talking, which is just as well because it’s difficult to understand someone when they talk with their lips closed. The bromance with Walker is still present from the first and the supporting cast (who I assume make appearances in other films from the series: I really should’ve seen the others before this) do a passable job with the mediocre dialogue. This was never about the talking though, and fortunately it’s not all quiet on the action front.
As previously mentioned, it’s hardly about street racing. For the most part, the set pieces come from chase scenes and each one of them contains numerous deaths or crashes: this really does push the boundries for a 12A age certificate. The finale is gloriously ridiculous, and reminiscent of the Burnout series of video games. There’s one scene that pits the characters driving skills against each other, but it’s over far too quickly.
Admittedly, my expectations were low, but I left pleasantly surprised: Rio Heist contains some of the most thrilling action sequences of 2011.
NOTE: There is an additional scene after the first lot of credits. For those who’ve seen them all, it’s certainly worth staying for.