May 22, 2013

Review: 'Fast & Furious 6' – Still Furious After All These Years

"We talkin' vehicular warfare."

"All roads lead to this." It sure does as Fast & Furious 6 aims to pay off the five films that came before it. What I like about The Fast and the Furious franchise is how I can enjoy it both ironically and genuinely, all at the same time. Four-time series helmer, director Justin Lin continues the tradition of inconsistent title naming and varied rise in quality. Baffled by the Fast & Furious franchise's endurance, I wrote an exhaustive piece about every film and this film's predecessor (the best one) Fast Five. The sixth instalment lives up to everything that came before in even dumber and more ridiculously entertaining ways.

Furious 6 (as it's titled in the opening credits) addresses all the convoluted backstories and continuity of the entire film franchise. It opens with a visual montage of every previous Fast & Furious film except Tokyo Drift, which takes place chronologically last, after this film. The doomed fate of one that film's stars Han (Sung Kang) is finally revisited. Lin closes the entire film franchise's continuity, recognizing how the films started from an undercover cop investigating a street racing gang stealing DVD players to this entry, where muscle cars fight a tank and cargo plane.

The plot is absolutely balls out ridiculous, even for a Fast & Furious film. It abandons any semblance of logic. The plot revolves around the revelation at the end of Fast Five. The undead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is found alive and well after "dying" in Fast & Furious. Luke Evans takes over the generic bad guy role as Owen Shaw, some kind of terrorist trying to steal a chip or something. Letty has amnesia and remembers nothing of her furious days with Vin Diesel's Dom. She's mysteriously recruited into Shaw's international car chasing crew and that sets off Dom's fury. He leaves his cushy hundred million dollar lifestyle on the beaches of Spain to reassemble his family of drivers.

Everyone keeps telling Dom how weak and predictable he is. Diesel speaks purely in cheesy one-liners (reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger) in every scene, hamming it up. Drink every time he says "family" or "loyalty". The performances are okay as every character gets their own arc or are paired up for some brutal hand to hand fight scenes, car chases, or shoot outs. Don't even try to make sense of the legalities or logistics of recruiting international criminals to chase down a terrorist all over Europe.

What this entry lacks along with every subpar film in the franchise is a central, compelling, and combative rivalry or "bromance" between opponents on opposite sides of the law. The first had the Point Break chemistry between Diesel and Paul Walker on facing off as cop and criminal. Fast Five wisely added Dwayne Johnson (whose mostly wasted in this film) to the mix. Half the fun of Fast Five was Johnson and Diesel chasing each other and their eventual showdown. This time around, Johnson's Hobbs recruits Dom and crew as they are all working on the same team, chasing Shaw.

Kudos to Lin who ambitiously took over and tied the entire filmography together, taking it from a forgotten, laughable, direct to video level franchise to a series of ambitious international sensations. Unfortunately, he's just far too ambitious and his material fails to live up to that ambition. There are even more cameos, nods, references, and plot points from every single previous film, completing a surprisingly dense cinematic mythography centred and originating with street car racing.

Whereas, Fast Five tied up and brought together the best, most fun elements of series, Furious 6 addresses every loose end, no matter how pointless or awkward, to the film's determent. Lin manages to walk the line of ridiculous parody with insane stunts and action sequences, but far too often weighs the film down with laughable (and not in the good way), convoluted plot elements. It's undeniably thrilling and entertaining, but far too often overly flat in its composition and execution.

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