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Movie review: Still fast, still furious

Posted: June 5, 2013 - 6:28pm  |  Updated: June 6, 2013 - 10:08am
This film publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from "Fast & Furious 6." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Giles Keyte)  AP
AP
This film publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from "Fast & Furious 6." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Giles Keyte)

“Fast and Furious 6”

Universal Pictures

2 hours, 10 minutes

 

How many series can say they’ve reached a sixth film? Not many, that’s for certain.

And how many movies keep cranking out sequels that mysteriously keep getting better? I mean, we’re not talking about “Halloween 12” or “Nightmare on Elm Street 10.” These “Fast and Furious” movies are actually worth watching. What’s impressive is that these films aren’t relying on a series of books to give them longevity — they just keep cranking out quality action, and the fan base keeps growing. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel should get down on their knees and kiss the feet of whatever casting director plucked the two of them from relative obscurity to star in the original film more than ten years ago.

I should say, though I wasn’t exactly disappointed, I do think the quality may be hitting a plateau. These movies have been on such a strange ride. The first movie was surprisingly good — not exactly great cinema, but the surprise was that it managed to not be a total trainwreck. The second was a typical sequel to a movie like this — cheap, poorly written, and missing the star. It just barely missed being straight to video.

Then came a kind of spin-off movie, “Tokyo Drift,” that was basically forgotten, until something strange happened. Justin Lin, director of the “Tokyo” outing, decided to keep going. He brought back the original stars, who were all stagnating to one degree or another, and switched the series from movies about fast cars that happened to have some action, to high octane action movies that just happened to feature some very fast cars. Parts four and five are two great action movies, with some of the best and most elaborately staged car chases ever filmed. And they are a heck of a lot of fun.

“Fast 6” is no exception. The action in this movie has to be seen to be believed, and this ups the ante with some of the best hand to hand fights I’ve seen all year. This time the old gang is augmented by Gina Carano, a world-champion Mixed Martial Arts fighter that caught the eye of Steven Soderbergh who cast her as the lead in “Haywire” in 2011. Carano may not be much of an actor, but she comes off as unbelievably tough.

This movie has a little problem, but it’s not the cast. It’s that, slowly but surely, these movies have become cartoons, and it’s finally beginning to show.

The movie’s opening credits attempt to catch you up, but really, if you haven’t seen at least a handful of these flicks, you’re not going to have any idea who’s who, who’s connected to who, who’s chasing who, or who was thought to be dead but turns out to just have amnesia.

In Moscow, Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on the hunt for a highly skilled group of thieves who just happen to use fast cars and lots of explosions. What better way to catch a group like that than by employing their doppelgängers? So the cops head to South America and pick up Dom and the gang, this time offering full pardons if they assist in stopping the real bad guys.

The plot is silly, and they all are to an extent, but this time the dialogue and the action were silly to match. Not dumb, necessarily, but a little too self-aware and in on the joke. Carano, for example, almost never stops smiling, as if she is just so jazzed that she gets to pal around with The Rock and be in a real movie. It’s kind of cute, but takes away from any smidgen of realism they might have been going for. “Oceans 13” had the same problem — the whole production is a little loose.

Not loose, however, is the stunt choreography. Holy cow. Not in the least bit believable, but exciting nonetheless, this movie features people leaping from car to car, off of tanks onto cars, off of overpasses onto moving cars, from moving cars to moving planes, and even flying through the air like acrobats over thousand foot high bridges.

I suppose believability has never been a strong point for these films, but in this latest, I feel like I jumped from watching “Die Hard” to “The Avengers.” True action fans will know what I’m talking about here. Both stretch the limits of plausibility, but at least John McClane is a real human being, subject to all the frailties implied.

At one point in this movie, Dom, Vin Diesel’s alter ego, is shot in the shoulder at fairly close range. Now, I don’t know what it’s like to be shot, thank goodness, but I’m sure it’s a bigger deal than Dom makes it out to be. At least they could pretend that it hurt, even a little. Dom, back at the warehouse, digs around with a pair of pliers, pulls out the bullet, slaps a piece of gauze on, and moves on.

To be honest, it’s not that big a deal as far as this particular movie goes, but the tonal shift from the original to now is a little jarring if you stop to think about it. But stopping to think isn’t really Dom and the gang’s style. It’s all about driving fast and punching hard and keeping the family together. There’s one more “Fast & Furious” to come, and the surprise reveal during the credits promises to up the ante.

I’m confidant, however, that Dom and his super team of super fast drivers can handle whatever comes their way.

Grade: B-

“Fast and Furious 6” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and sensuality.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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