May 24, 2013

Fast & Furious 6

Beware Of Falling CGI

Grade: B
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Luke Evans, Ludacris and Gina Carano
Running Time: 2 hr. 10 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13

I can’t decide what is more amazing: that six Fast & Furious films have been made (and made money) over the past 12 years, or that (Lord forgive me...) they’re somehow getting better.

For this sextuple installment, the franchise vanguard of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster and others (character names irrelevant) are recruited out of wealthy hiding by returning fed agent Luke Hobbs (the ubiquitous Dwayne Johnson) and his new sidekick (Gina Carano) to traverse Moscow to London and points in between and take down a mirror-image car gang led by a former Special Ops soldier (Luke Evans). The bait? The baddies include Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Diesel’s ex-squeeze and partner-in-crime believed dead and buried two movies ago.

The plot is utterly mindless, and it feels almost intentionally so at times. How else to explain why Walker’s wanted Brian O’Conner went to extreme, precarious efforts to sneak into not only the United State but a maximum security prison to interrogate a former drug lord for information that nobody seems to want or need upon his return? And when Tyrese and Ludacris are your emotive tentpoles, it’s safe to assume the cast won’t be on the shortlist for any SAG Awards.

However, the film knows its reason for being and delivers that to the audience in spades. Director Justin Lin helms his fourth film in the franchise, and with bigger budgets come bigger, ever-escalating, gloriously 2D action sequences that violate all strata of law, including penal, physics and gravity. There are the obligatory races between nitrous-powered muscle cars seemingly capable of infinite upshifting. But wait, there’s more. In one scene, an armored tank rumbles down a freeway against the flow of traffic, leaving crumbled SUVs and compact coupes in its wake. In another, Lin oscillates between about a half-dozen simultaneous fights/chases, including fisticuffs between Rodriguez and Carano—the scary/sultry former MMA grappler who starred in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire—while speedsters anchor a cargo plane attempting takeoff.

But, there’s also enough cheeky wit at play, whether it’s a conspicuous evocation of “007” or the sidelong needling of the Marvel film series when the muscle-bound Hobbs is jokingly referred to as “Hulk” and “Samoan Thor.” With more action than Iron Man 3 and more fun than the stuffy Star Trek Into Darkness, this is a summer movie that gives you your money’s worth. And yes, I feel guilty for writing that.

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