Paul Walker

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) continue the time-honored tradition of shooting big guns and racing fast cars in “Fast Five.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Since “The Fast and the Furious” debuted in 2001, the franchise has powered through a series of hilariously titled sequels (“2 Fast 2 Furious”) and an increasingly wonky chronology that forces “Fast Five,” the fifth and latest film, to function as a prequel to the third, “Tokyo Drift.”

What’s more shocking than five films dedicated entirely to the appeal of fast cars and testosterone is that the franchise’s fifth film is easily its best; a deliriously silly action film that would make Michael Bay proud and the perfect starting gun for the summer movie season.

After returning to the franchise in the last film, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) are on the run from the law. Taking refuge in Brazil, the two quickly find themselves in the crosshairs of notorious drug lord Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) and decide to pull one last job before getting out of the criminal life forever.

Making matters worse is the arrival of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a federal agent dead set on tracking down the crew. As one might imagine from the plot, “Fast Five” has yet to meet a cliche it doesn’t like.

Thanks to the energetic enthusiasm that runs throughout the film, the film relishes its silliness. Johnson’s perpetually sweaty FBI agent is saddled with an endless amount of flat tough-guy dialogue that’s somehow made B-movie and chuckle-worthy thanks to Johnson’s delivery.

Walker, on the other hand, struggles to break free of the wooden frat-boy persona that has defined his career thus far, always seeming on the verge of suggesting the characters go shotgun a beer.

Diesel is similarly strained, doing fine when he’s asked to look intimidating or fight someone but struggling when asked to emote. But there’s only one reason someone would see “Fast Five,” and those looking for some truly awe-inspiring vehicular action scenes will be more than satisfied. Every action sequence is spectacularly directed by Justin Lin, helming his third film in the franchise.

In particular, the film’s lengthy climax is absolute insanity, a go-for-broke chase through the streets of Rio de Janeiro that takes an infectious amount of joy in the spectacle of destruction.

Unfortunately, “Fast Five” has one glaring flaw: its 130-minute runtime. No matter how awesome and effective its action sequences are, there is absolutely no excuse for a “Fast and the Furious” movie to run more than two hours. Despite an ass-achingly long runtime, “Fast Five” is a promising beginning to a summer overflowing with sequels. Audiences with the fortitude to stick around through the credits get a brief teaser of a potential sixth installment.  

In the famed rapper’s third film “Takers,” in theaters today, T.I. plays Ghost, a fresh-out-of-jail bank robber who returns back to his unassailable band of thieves, only to find that he’s been ousted from the group. In his attempt to regain their trust, he offers them a high earning mission to hijack two armored trucks, a job that can either ruin them or pay off big.

The Daily Texan had the opportunity to speak with the artist about his role in the film and the camaraderie on the set.

T.I. said he was blessed to work alongside A-list actors, including Matt Dillon, Zoe Saldana, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and Idris Elba, in the film and to have worked with Will Smith in “ATL” and Denzel Washington in “American Gangsters,” two actors who he believes are the greatest in the business.

The experience he gained from these previous films and the advice he received from Smith and Washington is implemented in his approach with every film opportunity, he said.

“One thing that Denzel told me that stuck with me and always will stick with me is, ‘Don’t ever let the camera catch you acting. Don’t act, just be,’” T.I. said.

To prepare for his role in “Takers,” T.I. said that he asked himself how he would respond to the situations that Ghost was in, and what his demeanor would be. Though T.I.’s real-life bad boy persona echoes his character’s running of illicit deeds, T.I. said Ghost does not epitomize him. The rapper said, if anything, he would like there to be a separation made from art and life, from fact and fiction, and from reality and entertainment.

“I don’t think that I should be held any more accountable to the characters that I play in my films like ‘American Gangster’ or like Ghost in ‘Takers,’” he said. “I don’t think I should be held any more accountable to my characters than Arnold Schwarzenegger should be held for him playing the ‘Terminator’ or for him playing ‘Commando.’”

The only thing actors should be accountable for is their ability to play these characters, he said.

“I’m an actor. I’m just really used to telling a story and to convey a message, the message of the writer of the script, the message of the director,” T.I said. “This is not T.I or Clifford Harris’ message.”

What T.I. respects the most about his character, Ghost, is his ambition.

“I liked the fact that Ghost refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. “Everything that he has done, he is looking to do better.”

Though nearly every scene in “Takers” is packed with high-flying, acrobatic stunts, and built-up suspense, T.I, himself was only in two action scenes, as Ghost’s involvement is more of an emotional contribution, both dramatic and comical.

“He’s the driving force of the story,” T.I. said. “He dictated the pace of the film.”

In one of the action scenes he was in, however, T.I. said it was his least favorite moment of filming because he was sweltering in a police uniform in Los Angeles’ heat.

“That [suit] was hot and tight and it itched,” he said. “It seemed like the day went on forever. It was one of the hottest days in California. It had to be.”

Overall, T.I. said the entire experience was phenomenal as each character adds a different swag to the screen.

The chemistry between the bands of ride-or-die brothers, which included Walker, Christensen, Ealy, Elba, Chris Brown and T.I., was energetic and, at times, heartfelt. It is this chemistry, along with the complexity of each character, that separates “Takers” from being just another fast-paced, high-energy blockbuster hit without any substance.

“Just the camaraderie of the guys,” T.I. said, “it was really just like showing up and hanging out.”