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4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Fast and Furious 6
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by Erik Childress

"Getting Better. Also Dumber. Good Luck, James Wan"
3 stars

There is a sliding scale when it comes to evaluating the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise. For starters that is a word no one ever figured would be associative with a dumber-than-dumb B-movie that ripped off the plot to Point Break nearly wholesale. Secondly, are we meant to judge each new chapter as a single entity or how it fits into a series that is clearly making some effort to connect its interchangable parts? For the most part the James Bond, Indiana Jones or Mission: Impossible were never too worried about the past as long as there was a consistency in its action-packed objective and remained true to its character. The Fast & Furious films have never exactly been rich in character or personality. Just put those blank slates in a car and floor the pedal and the dialogue in-between will serve all the exposition needed to make them seem like actual movies. To the credit of director Justin Lin who has been on board for now four of the six films (including its best & worst efforts) he has upped the level of in-the-moment set pieces over the past two films to somewhat forgive a few of its many notable flaws. But enough crazy ideas does not exactly add up to a successful film if the execution remains inconsistent.

In Furious 6 (as the opening title card tells us to call it) anti-heroes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) have retired with all the millions they made off with in the last film. Brian is trying to settle into life as a new dad with Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) but still feels the urge of his fast-driving past. When FBI's Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) shows up at Dom's domain he has two important pieces of information for him. The first is he needs the outlaw's help in nailing down a former British Special Forces agent gone bad. Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) is on the verge of creating and selling a device that can black out a nation's security for 24 hours. The other bombshell is that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom's main squeeze that he believed was dead and buried in chapter four, is still alive and working with Shaw.

Dom immediately makes phone calls to his central crew and thanks to the most understanding women this side of Rihanna, they are all granted the go-ahead to risk their lives as if they never saw how Heat (1995) turned out for criminals who cannot let it go. Alongside Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot), Brian and Dom join Hobbs and new partner, Riley (Gina Carano) to literally chase down Shaw through the streets of London. When they lose him, track him down again. Though that appears easy enough, the film must stretch itself to come up with the usual confrontations between henchmen and henchwomen, chases on foot and behind the wheel, martial arts, shootouts, ex-lovers and the leaders of both crews having a face-to-face that is not nearly as interesting as Heat.

The point being not to compare such a flaky film to one of the great crime epics of our time but that there is so little to grab a hold of that the whole effort can crumble given even the slightest pause to spend time with these people. Fast Five opened like gangbusters but then spent its middle hour as a faux Ocean's Eleven with nary a tenth of the charisma burning off of one of Clooney's suits. Everything comes down to the action. The Raid: Redemption was not judged by the strength of its acting. A handful of skilled action set pieces can reduce an overly complicated and ultimately meaningless plotline to an afterthought. No need to worry about the peripherals and blind spots as long as the driver reaches their destination alive, right?

It is fine to subscribe to that when approaching entertainment as simple distraction, but unlike the often subjective nature of comedy the construction of action and its ultimate purpose is just as, if not more, important than that of a joke. Furious 6 is, without question, the most action-loaded entry into the series, and it once again gets itself started on the right notes by peppering that action with enough gasp-inducing moments to get the adrenaline flowing. A womano-y-womano between Carano and Rodriguez is a reminder of how greatly Carano's talents were used by Steven Soderbergh in Haywire. No one should confuse the car chase scenes with the best in the business (Bullitt, The French Connection, Ronin, Death Proof, etc...) but practical carnage can add up to momentary satisfaction. Since no one seems interested in the reality of being inside a car wreck, the only real scratches any of them receive are when fists are involved. On the plus side, Furious 6 is one hell of a PSA for seatbelts. On the other, fans of either the book or film versions of Crash are likely to walk away with little satisfaction.

The film's grip on reality is about as flimsy as the device that has allowed Rodriguez's Letty to have a case of amnesia since her last appearance. Forget the laws of physics and logic of speeding flesh connecting with glass and metal. Just remember how the film casually wastes our time in-between the more gravity-defying leaps. Hobbs & Tej's acquisition of a new ground force seems there to only accentuate racial stereotypes and to humiliate a snobby salesman with wealth accumulated by illegal means. Oh, how the worm has turned on what passes for equality. Shaw himself is as much of a MacGuffin as the item he is building, selling or whatever he keeps doing with a socket wrench. His motivations are never defined even amongst the most basic of greedy bad guys and Evans' performance seems intent more on stealing Michael Shannon's facial expressions than creating a memorable persona.

Most asinine of all though is the overtly complicated gambit of sending Brian into prison to extract information from a villain forgotten almost as soon as he was introduced in the fourth film. (Seriously, what would Mia think of this extension of his commitment?) Established with a pre-set time limit of 24 hours or else risk the wrath of paperwork that will be unable to spring him from hard time, Brian must get in, make a scene to get into the bad guy's cell level, retrieve the intel and get out. Not only is the scrap and meet-and-greet more easily achieved than a conjugal visit in the yard, but the time limit is never brought up again and the holy info Brian obtains is rather useless considering Shaw advances as much in his personally setup face-to-face with Dom. A more self-effacing film would have had Brian released from prison by saying "Now why did I do that again?"

It is a question that fans of this franchise should ask themselves as well. Sure, they appear to be getting better as a whole - less annoying interplay, more attempts at action - but the attempt to actually aggrandize itself as some honorable statement about loyalty produces a laugh every time its big money word of "family" is uttered. Johnson is the only one who seems to get this is all meant to produce the same kind of slam-bang, over-the-top line readings that he did on the mike as The Rock in the WWE. It might work too if there was just a little more danger inherent to the good guys and a lot more sense when it came to the cinematography of the action sequences. The double finale of Furious Six on a highway and clearly the longest runway ever paved should have produced highs on par with the best of Bond, Bourne and M:I. Instead it is literally an in-your-face, logic-straining, geographically-challenged, poorly-lit assault that sucks the fun away as quickly as it introduces a new wrinkle. Though Justin Lin has tried so very hard and elevated this thing away from the very obscurity it was headed towards (thanks in great part to the return of its un-charismatic leads) it is time to let this go once and for all. Considering the parking lot chase in James Wan's Death Sentence is a more competently-staged action set-piece than anything found in this entire franchise, here is hoping that if it must go forward it is in good hands.

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originally posted: 05/24/13 09:00:00
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User Comments

8/02/14 The king these movies are beyond retarded 1 stars
1/18/14 mr.mike More of the same, with cheesy CGI and stunts. Good ending tho. 3 stars
10/24/13 Bernie High Octane Thrill Ride. One of my favorites this summer. 4 stars
6/26/13 Jesse Zuno It was pretty good. I wish they developed the villain a little better. 4 stars
5/27/13 jamiebraun worth seeing. decent car chases. lots of action, but not enough blood 4 stars
5/26/13 Philip Splendid action set-pieces and a great ensemble cast. 4 stars
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  24-May-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Dec-2013


  DVD: 10-Dec-2013

Directed by
  Justin Lin

Written by
  Chris Morgan

  Vin Diesel
  Paul Walker
  Dwayne Johnson
  Luke Evans
  Gina Carano
  Jordana Brewster

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