Monday, December 30, 2013

Fast & Furious 6 - 2013

"Fast & Furious 6" - 2013
Dir. by Justin Lin - 2 hrs. 10 min.

Official Trailer #1

by Clayton Hollifield

However many years ago, it would have seemed absurd to think that a movie about musclehead gearheads would still be a viable franchise, six films deep.  Improbable, at the least.  But sure enough, there's enough history here that twists and turns keep coming.  If you caught the last little bit of the fifth movie, after the credits, you'd know that the hook for "Fast & Furious 6" is that Letty is not, in fact, dead.  Considering that the fourth film in the series was about Letty's murder, that's kind of a big deal.  And you know some things are givens, like guns and cars being driven very, very fast.

Following a precision heist in London, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his new sidekick, Riley (Gina Carano), feel that their best course of action is to enlist Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his crew to go head to head with the thieves.  There are two lures; the first is a round of full pardons all around, the second comes in an envelope bearing week-old photos of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who is not only not dead, but working for this outlaw crew.  Since this is a matter of family (plus Brian (Paul Walker) has just had a baby with Mia (Jordana Brewster)), most of the gang (minus the Dominicans) is reassembled to go after Shaw (Luke Evans) and his crew.

So the elephant in the room is Paul Walker's recent death via car accident.  I didn't have a difficult time watching "Fast 6" because of that, mostly being because nearly every film I've seen him in involved him driving very, very fast.  It would have been weirder if he had only done one movie like this, and then had tragedy strike.  But, of course, your mileage may vary on this issue.  The thought did cross my mind once or twice, but most of the big driving sequences didn't involve Walker; the focus this time around was more on Vin Diesel's character, and his interactions with Letty.

On the whole, I liked this film.  I do think it was a bit of a step backwards from the fourth and fifth films in the series; I'm not sure having Dominic and his crew working with the government was a good look for any of them.  Hobbs, as a character, wasn't really advanced here, and didn't really go head-to-head with anyone.  The fifth movie established him as a bad-ass, but that wasn't really explored here.  Instead, he kind of backed up Dominic, and didn't go head-to-head with Shaw; that was left up to Dominic, as well.  A lot of the action was good (I'll get into that more in a second), but I don't think that the stuff with the tank matched up to the last act of the fifth movie (the bit in Brazil), which was probably the best sequence in the entire series.  I guess my main gripe is that "Fast 6" was more of a traditional action movie, full of shootouts and fist-fights and people jumping out of things onto things, with lip service paid to the draw of a lot of these films: street racing and awesome cars.

It makes sense to have a couple of hand-combat scenes if you're going to introduce Gina Carano as a character, and both were pretty good (although, I'll freely admit that I watch fighting scenes secretly hoping someone starts using professional wrestling moves, and I was pleased at least twice during this film).  I wasn't as thrilled by the driving scenes; neither of the car-based scenes really reached that next level that you'd want to see.  The stuff with the airplane was pretty cool (cool being the basic unit of measurement for action sequences), but didn't fit in with the idea I had of these characters going in.  I was caught up in the action while watching it, but immediately questioned it upon finishing the movie.  And just like the fifth installment, there is a short scene at the end of the film to try and hook viewers for the seventh (and final) installment.  However, there was a fundamental flaw with the execution of that scene which undermined it's effectiveness.  I'm tap-dancing around spoilers here; a scene earlier in the film mirrored the end scene, and brings into question if what you are seeing really happened the way you think it should, or if it's just going to be a repeat of that earlier scene.  This wasn't a problem that popped up when I was thinking about the scene later on.  As I was watching this sequence, I was more confused (in a bad way) than excited to see what was going to come of it.

So I liked this film generally, even if I wasn't completely satisfied by it.  My gripes about the story deviating from what I expect out of a "Fast & the Furious" movie are mitigated by the fact that a sixth movie in a series being of any quality at all is shocking, and unlikely.  Truthfully, after watching this one, I was a little relieved to find out that the next installment is intended to be the last one.  I don't know if they have run this well dry, but it's a possibility, and taking the time to wrap things up rather than continue a slide into mediocrity indefinitely feels like a very good choice.  I'm looking forward to one more last time, one more time.

3 / 5 - Blu-Ray (Theatrical Version)

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