Fast & Furious 6
Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Gina Carano, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Luke Evans, Benjamin Davies, Joe Taslim, Clara Paget, Sung Kang, Lee Asquith-Coe, Gal Gadot, Kim Kold, Ludacris, Elsa Pataky, Rowena Diamond, Jason Statham, Shea Whigham. Written by Chris Morgan.
Action movies don’t get more preposterous than the latest entry in the Fast & the Furious franchise, a go-for-broke cartoon spectacle that throws its characters around the screen like ragdolls with such force and frequency we can’t ever be sure if a character has perished or survived with nary a scratch.
Case in point: a tank/car chase in Spain, high atop a bridge with a dividing gap between the right and left lanes. The tank flips, sending Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) flying across the gap. Dom (Vin Diesel) flips his car, sending himself flying over the gap in Letty’s direction. He grabs her mid-air, and safely pilots her on top a car on the other side.
This sequence drew an eruption of laughter from my audience, and for good reason: the Looney Tunes logic is so off-the-wall that the film momentarily turns into an out-and-out cartoon. But what got me was Letty’s reaction later on. To Dom: “How did you know there would be a car to break our fall?” Really? That’s the only leap of faith that was taken here? And what? You needed the car to break your fall, because the pavement would have been too hard?
This is in sharp contrast to the last film in the series, Fast Five, a Rio de Janeiro-set caper movie that culminated with a car dragging a massive bank vault down city streets. That film was downright realistic in comparison, and probably the best Fast & Furious flick by any traditional measure. But Furious 6 is so nutty that it becomes hugely entertaining on a whole ‘nother level – something that wasn’t lost upon the filmmakers, though diehard fans may not appreciate the comic direction they’ve taken the franchise.
The action begins in Moscow, where the dastardly Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his team have pulled off a military heist, compiling components for a terrorist device that can disable power over an entire country. Somehow. DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) and partner Riley (Haywire’s Gina Carano) are on the case.
Shaw is bad news, though, and Hobbs needs help. So he recruits Dominic Toretto (Diesel), who in turn recruits his old crew of street racers: Brian (Paul Walker), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot). Why should they help him? Because Letty (Rodriguez) – one of their own thought dead two movies ago – is now working with Shaw. Oh, and full pardons for everyone in exchange for their help. Why not.
The setup is dumb enough, but the action scenes pile it on so thick that the film can’t help but become a comedy. A legitimate one, at that: I laughed harder at Furious 6 than any other film this year. By the end, as a single car latches onto a massive freighter plane to prevent it from taking off, and characters drive on and off it, stopping for the occasional fistfight, I was nearly rolling out of my seat.
But just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean that it isn’t accomplished: that climactic sequence involves oh, about fifteen identifiable characters, each performing a separate action, the action closely intercut between all of them and filmed and edited with a steady hand: unlike most action films, we are always aware of what’s going on, and where the characters and objects are in relation to each other.
Only problem: because the internal logic of how the violence affects the characters is so skewed towards a cartoon, we’re never really invested in what’s happening. I think a character dies here, but only because of some somber looks and a shake of the head; what should have killed them had been survived ten times earlier in the film, and the franchise has already resurrected one thought-dead character – until I see the lifeless corpse, I’m not buying it.
While Furious 6 is relatively light on the racing scenes that have defined the earlier pictures in the franchise, it makes up for it with all manner of other action – vehicular and otherwise. My favorite: a hard-hitting hand-to-hand fight sequence between ex-MMA champion Carano and Rodriguez. And the logic that results in a fight between two characters, having both of those characters switch allegiance, and then fight again. Well done; the earlier fight – not witnessed by anyone else – makes no sense from either side.
Director Justin Lin debuted with the terrific Asian-American youth crime saga Better Luck Tomorrow back in 2002; since then, he’s made Annapolis in 2006 and now four Fast & Furious flicks. Lin hasn’t exactly delivered on the promise of his earlier work, but I can’t say he hasn’t done his best with the material: each of these movies is better than they have any right to be.
Titling gripe: The Fast & the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and now this one, which is called Fast & Furious 6 in promo material and simply Furious 6 onscreen. There’s no sequential consistency in these titles whatsoever; you’ll need to do some research if you want to watch them in order.
Oh, and in case anyone cares, the past three movies, apparently, chronologically take place before the events in Tokyo Drift, which explains the appearance of Han in this film.
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