Release: Friday, May 24, 2013
This is my first time reuniting with the crew of car-crazed criminals since 2003, when 2 Fast 2 Furious riled up critics and seemed even to repel some of the fans of the original. I’ve gotta say, this was a hell of a way to get back in touch with them. With the way Fast and Furious 6 doles out action sequences and adrenaline rushes you’d think these aspects of film were going out of style, and even though this strategy reaches proportions that would have Sir Isaac Newton doubting the legitimacy of his life’s work, there was a surprising ease with which I was able to ignore the implausibility of the action and just enjoy the ride, as well as the views along the way.
The problem with these films is that in any given installment, the magic at any moment can be easily ruined if you were to just take a step back and think about what’s happening. . . particularly in the action sequences. People are able to jump further, survive higher and higher falls, and escape gunfire as if they have just graduated from a class on How To Dodge Bullets, as instructed by Keanu Reeves. Make no mistake, there’s a certain invincibility to these lead characters who have become lovable (or at least a gruff, thuggish approximation to ‘lovable’). Not to mention, their car-handling skills are otherworldly.
Alas, this is what we slap ten bucks onto the box office counter for. By now, those who are going to this film are either die-hard fans or critics just waiting to tear Hollywood a new one for allowing yet another installment to happen. As far as my readings of many reviews have gone, though, there are far fewer detractors of this film than I was initially expecting.
Fast 6 opens furiously, a bird’s eye camera following Dom and Brian as they race along a tightly winding ribbon of road cutting into Spanish cliffside. As it turns out, this brief chase is headed towards a finish line of a different sort. Brian has recently become a father, and Dom cautions him before he goes in to greet his child that this very moment marks a turning point in both their lives.
Of course, the Fast franchise has never been big on subtleties. This one line that Dom says is a huge foreshadowing of things to come; namely, the rest of the film’s mayhem.
One quiet afternoon the Hulk. . . er, rather, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s larger-than-life Luke Hobbs appears on Dom’s dapper doorstep, with a simple mission objective: “I need your help, Dom.” It is precariously cliche, but only in its execution do we truly find ourselves buying back into the fantasy of high-priced cars, the chasing and racing thereof, and of the lavish lifestyles that have only become more so as the series continues to expand. Initially reluctant to gather up the crew again, Dom finds himself with no other option.
Armed with the knowledge that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is indeed still alive, our crew — which has also expanded to include a few more babes and a few more goofy rapper-turned-actors — converts into some sort of quasi-military operations unit in the hunt for a secretive weapon that can power down an entire military operation for 24 hours. But that mission is second to finding and rescuing Letty from her British captors led by the coldhearted Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
At this point it’s clear in Justin Lin’s direction that he wants the crew to transcend their affinity for stealing and pimping out their vehicles. The car aficionados (this term will forever apply at least to Dom and Brian) dart from one exotic location to the next, falling into occasional grapples with the enemy in random spurts of street racing. Not having seen the previous several, I had the impression that the street racing segments in this film were less a part of the chase than they were obligatory plot elements to keep the title relevant, even though it’s been clearly expressed that the stakes have never been higher for Brian, Dom and company. Taken by themselves, these extensive scenes are still Fast & Furious-worthy, and are bound to keep the attention for anyone who’s ever been a fan.
As the movie progresses the action is perpetually amplified to the point of becoming mind-numbing. The climax is utterly ridiculous. But this IS version number six we are talking about here. And because it is number six, it is far more surprising to me that there remained this much entertainment value in the story when it could have dived into far inferior, and more well-worn territory. Perhaps this had been the case in a few films in its history, but this time around there is plenty of material worth savoring. The fight sequences are impressive; the locations beautiful.
Performance-wise? Well, given that Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson (whom I’ve never been a fan of), “The Rock” and Vin Diesel all are acting on the same screen together — it could be much, much worse. Thankfully, screenwriter Chris Morgan devotes sufficient time to each of these guys to make them all a part of the raucous conversation about street racing evolving to the next level. I suppose if the stakes are going to be raised for every film, so too should the acting quality. Luckily, the two blend fairly well.
There may not be anything to remember other than how long it takes for a plane to lift-off (this part was perhaps the epitome of how the suspension of disbelief has been taken for granted with these films), or how Vin Diesel can survive so many NASCAR-style crashes, but by the time you get to thinking back on the film, maybe you won’t care too much.
(Oh, and by the way, it pays to stay for the credits.)
Recommendation: For fans especially, Fast & Furious 6 fires on most, if not all cylinders. It is alternately an adrenaline rush and a sentimental story that does a nice job summarizing the places we’ve been thus far. But it is safe to say we are far from the finish line with it all. Go see it on the big screen; your T.V.’s stereo system won’t really do this thing justice.
Running Time: 130 mins.
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com