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Sunday October 21st 2018

Fast And Furious 5 | 2011

With a single bound, our hero is free… well, practically, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is sprung from the prison bus carrying him off to serve 25 years in Lompoc in the brief but spectacular opening sequence.

Along with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) he slips off to extradition-proof Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Plenty of beauty shots establish the instantly recognisable city, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the view of the bay from the Dona Marta lookout point, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer and the seemingly endless favelas blanketing the surrounding hills. However, most of the action sequences were filmed in the wider and more accommodating streets of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan.

Wherever Toretto and Brian find themselves, there will always be one big job on the horizon. This one, courtesy of Toretto’s brother Vince (Matt Schulze), involves the theft of three high-end cars from a moving train – a ’66 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, a ’72 De Tomaso Pantera and a Ford GT40 which unknown to the team harbours a vital secret that leads to all sorts of complications.

The spectacular robbery alone cost $25 million to film – mainly due to the production having to buy its own, wreckable, train.

Rio being a bit short of expansive sandy desert, the sequence was filmed in California’s Mojave Desert, on the railroad tracks running between Parker, just across the border in Arizona, through through the town of Vidal to Rice, California, alongside Highway 62.

The climax comes with a practical stunt as Toretto and Brian leap into the Colorado River, with the Colorado River Railway Bridge at Parker digitally enhanced to give the scene a little more heft.

With the ‘big job’ comes the ‘powerful drug lord’ and this one, Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), operates out of the high-rise Headquarters of Banco Central do Brasil (Central Bank of Brazil), on Avenida Presidente Vargas in Rio (though this too seems to have been digitally manipulated).

It’s also the genuine Rio as Toretto and O’Conner assemble the team to relieve Reyes of his vast fortune, though when Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) flies in, that’s not Rio de Janeiro International he’s seen leaving but the angled frontage of the Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art), Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, 85, Parque do Flamengo.

The warehouse in which the old team gathers is in yet another city – Atlanta, Georgia. It’s the old disused Pratt-Pullman Yard on Rogers Street at DeKalb Avenue NE on Atlanta’s near-Eastside.

Once a repair facility for Pullman train cars, the crumbling 26-acre industrial complex has proved irresistible to urban explorers and graffiti artists. A couple of other movies, including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver have taken advantage of its photogenic decrepitude but it looks like the property is finally to be redeveloped. Hopefully the historic buildings will be restored and incorporated into its new function.

Reyes’ cash is squirrelled away all over the city, but a sly move encourages him to move the lot into a single impregnable location. As the loot is transferred, the shots of the team tracking Reyes’ vehicles is a mix of Rio and San Juan.

Tej (Ludacris) keeps watch from atop the circular tower of the Santos Dumont Building, Rua Santa Luzia 651 at Avenida Cologeras in Rio. Built in 1975, the tower once boasted a revolving restaurant, long since closed.

The zinger comes when the destination for Reyes’ ill-gotten gains is revealed to be the city’s heavily armed police HQ. Coincidentally, this actually is a repository for large amounts of money. It’s not a police station but the Banco Gubernamental de Fomento para Puerto Rico, Avenido De Diego in the heart of San Juan.

With Toretto and Brian needing yet another high-performance motor, they turn up at the obligatory street race-party, replete with hip-swinging, scantily clad women. Cheekily, the film omits the street race entirely, taking the win as a foregone conclusion. The lively gathering was filmed in downtown Atlanta near to the old, now demolished, Georgia Dome stadium.

With three DEA agents having been killed during the train robbery, upright agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) arrives in Rio to take down Toretto, and immediately demands Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) as translator.

When his agents descend on the favela hideout, the subsequent footchase – complicated by the appearance of Reyes’ men – was filmed in the small hillside town of Naranjito, located in the mountainous central region of Puerto Rico about ten miles southwest of San Juan.

The unexpected intervention of Hobbs has scuppered the carefully planned heist and as a last-minute improvisation, Toretto and Brian’s crew resorts to sheer brute force, with a pair of Dodge Chargers dragging the entire metal vault from the cop station.

Six versions of this eight-foot square vault were built for the production, each designed for a specific function (one was a façade built onto the front of a semi truck used for close shots of the vault destroying cars; another was a reinforced, four-wheel self-drive vehicle connected by cables to the two stunt cars).

The price of keeping CGI to a minimum was the destruction of 200 vehicles during filming.

The streets of ‘Rio’ are the Río Piedras and Milla de Oro district in Hato Rey, San Juan, with the massive vault careering wildly at high speed along Avenida Ponce de León at Calle Betances.

The chase climaxes on a lengthy causeway, which is the Teodoro Moscosco Bridge crossing the Laguna San Jose to connect San Juan with the neighbouring Isla Verde district. For the more elaborate stunt scenes, a US Navy base pier outside San Juan stood in for the bridge.