Fast Five

Fast Five is the latest in a series of shoot-em-up actioners staring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. The films seem to be about a gang of honorable car thieves, from what I can tell. (No, I haven’t seen any of the earlier ones, but I’ve seen enough trailers to have a bit of an idea of what’s going on.)

By the time of Fast Five, the ridiculously good-looking team (well, not Ludacris, obviously, but just about EVERYBODY else is drop-dead) has assembled in Rio. Against this atmospheric backdrop, they cross paths and swords with a crime boss who wants them dead, and an elite squad of the FBI who wants them behind bars (cue man-mountain Dwayne Johnson) and all sorts of shenanigans follow. A roof top chase through (or rather over) the shanties is particularly energized; the grand finale car chase through the streets is literally gravity-defying. So it’s all a bit silly really, but a more than entertaining-enough way to spend a flight, if you ask me.

I remember a few years back, being quite astonished that Paul Walker – something of a charisma-bypassed nobody – was demanding (and getting) $10 million a movie. And let’s face it, at that time, the high point of his career was that truly awful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Well, ten years later he’s still here, and strangely, I think, his earlier woodenness has morphed instead into what passes for commendable acting restraint. Here, I thought, he was worth every cent.

Babylon AD

Zrnka, bear with me on this review of Vin Diesel’s shlocker Babylon A.D

It’s pure violence and stupidity. The movie is supposed to teach us that the education of our children will mean the future of our planet. All the action scenes had a goal: They were supposed to be driven by either a metaphysical point of view or experience for the characters… instead parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24.

Which critic would pan the film so? Um, the Director actually.

Babylon AD tells the story of a mercenary (Diesel) in the year 2019 who is hired to transport a woman and her guardian from the collapsed and anarchic New Serbia (natch!) to New York. Throw in a pregnant virgin, a gun-toting nun, some creepy cyber-techy stuff (impants, clones, passports injected under the skin – yikes) and a nasty cultish religious order, and you at least had the a possibility of a decent film.

But in spite of some great set pieces in a collapsing world, some decent CGI and the brooding presence of  chunky XXX himself, the final cut is disjointed, chaotic and essentially disinteresting. At least it’s short,  though it would appear that the movie’s brevity – at anywhere between 15 and 70 minutes slashed by the studio from the director’s cut – is very much part of the problem. No wonder the Director was pissed.

Babylon AD shot in Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic, with the desperate evacuation across the bering Strait actually picked up in Norrbotten Ian, on the Gulf of Bothnia in the northern Lappland part of Sweden.