heist

REVIEW: Fast Five (2011)

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) along with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster and friend and former-FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are on the run and backed into a corner. After they cross paths with a powerful Brazilian drug lord in Rio, they call in old friends to pull off one last job to buy their freedom. But all the while federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on their tail.

Following on from Fast & Furious, Fast Five continues the trend of stepping away from its street racing roots becoming a heist film and it’s all the better for it. It still has some great car racing action, but a lot of it either pushes forward the plot or is a nice character moment. It has all the usual heist tropes, but they come together with characters you’ve seen across the previous four films means which makes them extra fun and enjoyable.

Moulding characters into the roles of heist archetypes like the techy (Ludacris’s Tej), the quick talker (Tyrese Gibson’s Roman), and the social chameleon (Sung Kang’s Han) is handled really well and it feels like an extension of the characters we’ve already meant rather than a complete reinvention.

Having all these characters come together and become friends, some of which previously knew Dom before while some only knew Brian, fully cements the key theme of this franchise – family. It’s a theme that had been there from the start but really, it’s once this cast of actors and characters are finally together that you properly start to connect with that message.

Dwayne Johnson is a brilliant addition to the cast and he is a formidable foe for Walker’s Brian and Diesel’s Dom. Really, Hobbs is a combination of the two of them; he has the knowledge of the legal system of Brian, the physical strength of Dom, and is just as loyal to his team as the two of them are to their own family.

The action spectacle of Fast Five is top-notch too. There are foot chases through a favela, an opening set piece with a heist on a train, brutal fistfights, and then there’s the climax which sees a lot of destruction on the streets of Rio. All the action sequences are exciting, well-shot and easy to follow and above all, they are really fun.

Fast Five is a thrill ride from start to finish. The false starts, and not so great films that came before it, can be forgiven because this one is a fantastic blend of action, intrigue, fun and above all – likeable characters that are one big family. Fast Five really set the bar for what the rest of the franchise could be. 5/5.

REVIEW: Widows (2018)

Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead criminal husbands, take their lives into their own hands as they conspire to steal the money they need to repay the men who are out to hurt them, and to make a better life for themselves.

Directed by Steve McQueen who cowrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl and many other twisty stories, Widows is a tense heist thriller that never lacks in character and world building.

Widows grabs your attention straightaway, with the heist that goes wrong and leads to four career criminals dying. From then it’s an exploration of the people who are left behind and their grief and loss of what to do next. Viola Davis’s steely Veronica is the one who brings the widows together. She has plans left to her by her late husband (Liam Neeson) and needs help in order to get the money to stop those who wish to hurt her.

All four leading ladies are magnificent. Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda is struggling to provide for her young children, Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice has no career prospects, and Cynthia Erivo’s Belle is working multiple jobs to keep herself and her family afloat. They are four very different characters but they come together with one goal in mind. That’s not to say they don’t have their disagreements, but together they find a strength and determination that some of them didn’t know they had.

Set in Chicago with a backdrop of criminal activity, by politicians and more traditional criminals alike, Widows manages to be a compelling story about interesting and layered women while also managing to bring in race, politics and class into the story. These elements flesh out the Chicago setting. Colin Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a career politician and whose family has been elected to office for generations, while Brian Tyree Henry plays Jamal Manning, a man who has criminal connections but is from the neighboured he’s campaigning to represent. These two men each have underhand dealings but they approach illegal activity, politics and violence in very different ways.

While Widows is building towards a heist, it’s the characters themselves and the stages they have to go through to prepare for the heist that’s the main focus of the film. That doesn’t make it, or the final crime, any less satisfying. You learn about these women, the hardships they’ve faced, and the forces that are out to stop them, and you soon realise that nothing is going to stop them from doing what they set out to do. 5/5.

REVIEW: Artemis by Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara is the best smuggler in Artemis – the first and only city on the moon. Life’s tough if you’re not a rich tourist or a billionaire, so smuggling in the occasional bit of harmless contraband helps cover her debts and pay the rent. Then Jazz gets the chance on commit the perfect crime, with the pay-out being too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible heist is just the start of her problems, as things go wrong and her life becomes endangered. Soon Jazz discovers a conspiracy in Artemis, and her only chance at survival lies in a scheme even riskier than the first.

I was so excited about Artemis when I first heard about it. It’s about a heist (I love heist stories) on the moon (it’s always cool having stories set in space) by the guy who wrote The Martian (one of my favourite books I read over the past few years). Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I found it difficult to get into Artemis, mainly because I couldn’t get used to Jazz’s narrative voice. It’s very conversational as if she’s talking to someone else. It is quite similar to Mark Watney in The Martian – but there was a reason his voice was like that, he was recording himself. With Jazz it felt forced, the humour didn’t land a lot of the time and the way she talked about herself and her body was weird and in my experience, not how women generally talk about themselves.

Naturally there’s technical and science jargon but the way it’s explained makes it pretty accessible and easy to understand. However, there is a lot of it and it can bog down the action and I found myself skim-reading it more often than not. The heist itself was pretty good and I didn’t see many of the twists and turns coming as things naturally went wrong for Jazz and her plans.

Artemis is just a bit meh. The whole idea of a city on the moon is really cool and the way the city is described makes it vivid and exciting but the story itself is just OK. Jazz is more grating than a sarcastic hero the book tries to make her out to be and I couldn’t connect to her or any of the characters really. Artemis was an alright book, but it was a disappointing one for me. 3/5.