Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Fast & Furious 6

One of the biggest surprises for film in 2011 was the critical embrace that Fast Five, the fifth installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise, received upon its release. The series of films were considered little more than punchlines to serious cinema fans, but with the fifth a change had come; cinemaphiles seemingly made a decision to laugh with the lunkheads championing the movies, instead of laughing at them.

The derision heeped up the franchise was deserved, however, make no mistake of that. Featuring a cast lead by two walking 2x4s, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, little thought seemed to go into the scripts other than how to get the characters into cars that go fast.

Fast Five brought a change to the action by introducing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the mix, and whether critics knew it beforehand, it turned out that everyone was interested in watching a fight onscreen between Diesel and his Samoan counterpart. By setting the production in Brazil, the filmmakers were able to place the characters in a different setting to destroy as well.

Fast & Furious 6 opens with Dom (Diesel) and Brian (Walker) attempting to create a new life in paradise with their new families, only to be disturbed by a returning Hobbs (Johnson). It seems that Hobbs needs help tracking down and capturing a team of terrorist street racers (stay with me here), and offers the only two bargaining chips he has: full pardons for everyone in Dom’s gang, enabling them to return to the US safely, and the opportunity to reunite with his supposedly-dead ex-girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

Reuniting the gang in London, Dom goes about tracking down evil counterpart Shaw (Luke Evans), who is attempting to steal all of the components needed to create a weapon that is capable of knocking out communication among soldiers in battle. Shaw is the antithesis to Dom; completely unattached to the members of his crew, and ruthless in his attempts at escape.

Lets go ahead and put all the cards on the table: this film is nowhere near as good as Fast Five. In fact, it’s not good at all. All of the fun that can be found in the previous film is sorely lacking here.

Was it the big Rock vs Diesel fight that really made the fifth movie enjoyable? Did Diesel just give a damn in that one, since he clearly doesn’t here? Does Diesel look back at his early attempts at branching away from action and starring in serious roles and think, “Whoo, glad that’s over!” Does Paul Walker thank the deity of his choice every night for helping him land this guaranteed paycheck?

If Walker doesn’t, he should, because what little chemistry he and Diesel have displayed together over the years has now vanished, with only Johnson there to provide charisma in this production. On second thought, that’s not entirely fair, as newcomer Gina Carano is brought into the franchise in a largely thankless role, asked merely to stand beside Johnson and smirk for 80% of her screen time. Still, she manages to project a presence, which is more than can be said for the rest of the “crew”.

What it boils down to is, why bother worrying about characters onscreen when it’s clear they are living in a world without consequences. This is a film where someone can threaten a high-ranking government official with a gun and minutes later it is forgotten. Multiple scenes feature people jumping from moving vehicles onto speeding cars below, with nary a scratch to be found afterwards. In fact, it seems the only way to court danger in this film is to be a third-tier character contemplating settling down.

This was the last FF film for director Justin Lim, and a case could be made that he stayed one film too many. While Fast Five surprised many with its action sequences that defy logic, here we are presented with scenes that deny clear thinking. With the heroes committing crimes that would mark them as wanted criminals by every major law enforcement agency in the world, is it too much to ask for at least a flat tire every now and then?

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