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Thursday, May 23, 2013 09:59 am

Furious 6 throws Fast into reverse

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The cast of Fast and Furious 6.

I was just as surprised as anyone when Fast 5 not only revived the Fast and Furious franchise but also proved to be one of the best action films of the last decade. You’re excused for having missed it, as it stands to reason that a fifth chapter in any series would have little new to offer. Yet, under the steady hand of director Justin Lin, the movie not only proved to be an exciting and inspired entertainment but one that set the bar for any car-based action flick that might be made in the next 20 years.

If you think I might be overstating things, rent Fast 5 instead of seeing the latest entry in the series, the imaginatively titled Fast and Furious 6. The film ends up being a victim of the success of the previous chapter. Desperation, rather than innovation, is the engine that drives this episode. Ridiculous instead of imaginative, the movie strains to impress its audience, trying in vain to top the many stunts that have come before, resorting instead to computer-generated effects rather than true stunt work at key moments during the adventure. It’s obvious that Lin and company are simply going through the motions here, spinning their wheels in the service of a script that offers nothing new.

Living the good life in Spain, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his partner Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) have retired from a life of crime, having scored big time with a heist in Rio de Janeiro. However, their time in paradise is disrupted with the arrival of federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who’s on the trail of a rogue international arms dealer by the name of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Seems the mercenary is gathering high-tech parts to build a device that will wipe out power and information grids for a period of 24 hours and he’s far too elusive to be caught. Hobbs offers full pardons to Toretto and his crew if they’ll come on board. But the thing that convinces him to help is evidence that his long-dead former love, Leti (Michelle Rodriguez), is in fact alive and in league with Shaw.

Yes, this is the sort of hoary convention that was often ponied out in serials from the 1940s. Because it is paired with the equally plausible explanation that Leti has amnesia and is a bit foggy about her past, you can tell that writer Chris Morgan is straining. However, these become minor concerns once the physical impossibilities of the film start piling up. Obviously, movies of this sort must be given a bit more rope than others as far as the nature of physics is concerned. However, Lin goes far beyond any good will the audience might provide. Some of the action that ensues will have you saying “Gimme a break!” rather than gasping in wonder. In particular is a sequence on a bridge that has Toretto flying through the air to catch another character who’s been catapulted from a car. This moment and more than a few others are insulting rather than thrilling and only end up snapping the viewer out of the moment rather than sweeping them away, a cardinal sin for any action film.

It doesn’t help that the movie is edited for maximum confusion. So many moments are simply a blur of disconnected images rather than a coherent sequence of awe-inspiring moments. This is particularly noticeable during the climax involving speeding cars and a flying fortress on what has to be the world’s longest runway. When it’s not bombarding us with ridiculous sights, it’s bludgeoning us with rapid nonsensical motion.

Obviously, how much you enjoy Fast 6 will be determined by how willing you are to embrace the ridiculous. The crowd I saw it with seemed to have no problem with the outlandish plot and gravity-defying stunts. Universal Pictures is counting on that, as the final scene, which features the appearance of a major action star, sets up a sure-to-be-produced part 7. Here’s hoping a bit more logic is employed the next time around.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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