Finding a sixth gear

Latest ‘Fast and Furious’ remains outlandish but fun

5/24/2013
BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
An action scene scene from
An action scene scene from "Fast & Furious 6."

The Fast and the Furious franchise, movies about souped-up cars that go really, really fast and the quirky-but-lovable people who drive them, has made more than $1.6 billion worldwide.

Far from running on empty, 2011’s Fast Five was the biggest film in the series.

It’s understandable, then, that Universal and director Justin Lin, who’s helmed the last four Fast and Furious sequels, are content to stay the course with the latest installment, Fast & Furious 6. This means more cars, more mayhem on the streets, more action and stunts, and a thin plot thread to tie everything together.

After the successful $100 million heist from Fast Five, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew are enjoying comfortable, wealthy lives as U.S. fugitives living abroad. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is now a father. Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) continue their romance. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is a jet-setting playboy and Tej (Ludacris) is finding creative ways to help others.

They’ve gone their separate ways, but Federal Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) has news that brings them together to track down a former British Special Forces soldier named Owen Shaw.

Shaw and his expert crew are assembling the pieces to a dangerous device that can black out entire regions for 24 hours, and Hobbs is sure they plan to sell the device to the highest bidder. For the cooperation of Dominic and his team, Hobbs promises amnesty and full pardons. But for Dominic this job is personal, after Hobbs shows him photos of former girlfriend Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who is now a member of Shaw’s gang.

Fast & Furious 6: ★★★
Director: Justin Lin.
Screenplay: Chris Morgan.
Studio: Universal Pictures release
Showing: Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons.
Rating: PG-13 for intense violence, action, and mayhem, and strong language and sexuality. Running time: 130 minutes.
Starring:
  • Toretto - Vin Diesel
  • O’Conner - Paul Walker
  • Letty - Michelle Rodriguez
  • Hobbs - Dwayne Johnson

Letty was killed in a previous film. Or so we thought when we watched the wrecked car she was crawling out of blow up; and because she was later buried, and because there were subsequent references from other characters about her death. But this is Hollywood, where such emotional turning points can be easily disregarded through nifty stunt work to demonstrate how Letty survived the explosion, and through the gimmick of amnesia to explain why she didn’t let anyone know she was still alive.

If this plot point seems too silly even for a sitcom, remember that intelligence and reason (and smart dialogue) have never been ingredients in any of the Fast and Furious films. And film No. 6 is a heightened celebration of what has made those previous movies so popular: the ridiculous (a never-ending runway), the illogical (the ability to destroy swaths of city blocks and cars, and injure and kill people without repercussions), and the preposterous (a mid-air rescue leap of separate drivers from two speeding cars across a highway bridge).

The Fast and Furious films are not about subtlety, and Lin directs this one as if his resumé depends on it. And it likely does, since he’s not scheduled to direct the upcoming Fast & Furious 7. (Stick around a minute or longer into the end credits to learn more about the next movie in the series.) This film is about pushing driving stunts to new limits and further from what we’ve seen in the other installments.

Gina Carano, left, and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from
Gina Carano, left, and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from "Fast & Furious 6."

Car chases and action sequences can only carry a film so far, though, and so much of Fast & Furious 6 relies on the familiarity of the characters to keep it going. While Chris Morgan’s script might not provide them with more than B-grade dialogue about the importance of family, code of honor, and getting revenge, there’s a distinct likability to Toretto and O’Conner, Han and Gisele, Roman and Tej, Hobbs, and once again Letty.

While not the stuff of Oscar nominations, it’s worth noting that Diesel, Walker, Johnson, et al bring the necessary components to their performances, delivering as much (though some might quibble as little) as the roles demand. If nothing else, there’s the damning praise for these actors that you remember their characters more than the cars in which they drive.

Fast & Furious 6 may not be a great film, but it is by its own standards a fun one — as flawed and lacking in depth as its predecessors, but equally as entertaining.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.