Friday, May 31, 2013

Fast & Furious 6

The Fast and the Furious franchise has definitely seen its ups and downs. As far as I’m concerned the original is a decent action/drama that features a healthy dose of cheese, but the following two sequels (2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) were pretty bottom of the barrel, the second film in particular being quite painful to watch. The fourth film (Fast and Furious) was just okay, but started to show signs of finally getting the formula right. Fast Five was where the stars aligned and the writers smartly switched the focus from racing cars to an Ocean’s 11 style heist. It became one of my favorite movies from the summer of 2011. And now we have the inevitable and highly anticipated continuation - Fast & Furious 6 (for some reason the advertising is calling this Fast & Furious 6, but in the film it’s simply titled Furious 6… go figure).
Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) enlists the help of his former quarry Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and their crew to aid in taking down a dangerous crime lord, Shaw (Luke Evans), who plans to steal military hardware and sell it on the black market. They accept in exchange for full pardons once they learn that one of Shaw’s accomplices is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who they thought was dead.

As much as I enjoyed the fifth film, I have to say that this follow-up was a little disappointing. It basically follows the same path that its predecessor tread, only this time the writing isn’t nearly as good and the story is needlessly stretched out to bursting point. Long story short, it’s the same movie only amped up to the Nth degree.
Writers Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson didn’t seem to be trying very hard when they copy/pasted the Fast Five script here. Al the beats are the same, none of the characters really change or evolve and the project has a lazy feeling about it. One of their more ridiculous changes is that the Letty character has amnesia and doesn’t remember any of her old crew. It was a bad decision on their part and it’s so freaking hokey when you’re watching this development play out on screen. They also wrote yet another horribly clichéd and boring villain in Shaw. He’s not threatening nor is he frightening. He’s just sort of there. Cole Hauser’s baddie in 2 Fast 2 Furious was more intense, and that’s saying something. Although I was happy to see that they finally decided to correct their timeline jumping (parts 4, 5 and 6 take place before part 3, and now the series has caught up with the events of that film at last).

Justin Lin returns for his fourth and final directing gig in this series, and while his track record was pretty hit or miss with me I have to say that I’m sad to see him go. He brings a great energy to each film regardless of its quality, and he basically turned this franchise into the money making juggernaut that it is today. What’s truly disappointing is that you can tell as you watch Furious 6 that he’s tired of these films and is ready to move on. There’s nothing truly awe inspiring or overly exciting in his stylistic choices here as there were in Fast Five. The movie just kind of slogs along, going through the motions with a random action scene thrown in to keep the audience from falling asleep, and insures that there will be yet another film to follow.
The acting is about as good as you’d expect. Vin Diesel pretty much IS his character of Dom Toretto (as he is with Riddick as well) and he manages to make his gruff, yet sensitive, criminal a joy to watch. You can say all you want about how cool the cars are or how wild the action is – Diesel is the main draw here and he never disappoints. Pairing him with Dwayne Johnson was probably the smartest move the casting department has ever made for any film in the series. These two are great together and have a fun chemistry. I hope the filmmakers continue to include his character of Hobbs in future installments. Paul Walker does his best Keanu Reeves impersonation, Tyrese Gibson is still slightly annoying and always “hungry”, Michelle Rodriguez might as well just legally change her name to “Tough Chick”, Jordana Bewster is fine as the sassy damsel in distress and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges makes for a better comic relief sidekick than Tyrese. I really enjoyed Sung Kang and Gal Gadot together. They have a fun relationship and they both are decent actors. As much as I like Gina Carano (she is FINE!) I sadly report that her acting chops have not improved since Haywire. It’s sad because if she stepped up her game a notch or two she could be a great leading female action star. Her fight scenes are ultra rad. Luke Evans tries his best to inject some life into his DOA antagonist, but sometime the writing works against you and treading water is the only option. Such is the case here.
I know I’m making the movie sound pretty bad. It’s not. It’s entertaining and fun, if not a little stupid and farfetched like all the films in this series (was that airstrip 30 fucking miles long?!). I was just expecting more and I didn’t get it. There are some cool callbacks (the villain from Fast & Furious popping up in one scene made me smile), the action is rad and the women are smoking’ hot. And the setup for the next film… HOLY SHIT! But when the film ended I realized that I had paid to see the same movie twice, and that I probably should have just stayed home and watched my BluRay of Fast Five instead. It’s one of the better films in the franchise (I’d rank it as my third favorite), but I hope that some new writers are brought in to change things up for part 7. With an awesome villain already lined up they had better make the film as bad ass as they possibly can or I fear the series will go out with a whimper.

3 out of 5

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