‘Fast & Furious 6’ is ridiculous enough to be fun despite being overlong

fast and furious 6 posterFast & Furious 6

Directed by Justin Lin

Written by Chris Morgan

USA, 2013

The cars are fast, as they always are, and the people are equally furious. In fact, they’re faster and furious-er now than they were before, but then, you already knew that. Be honest: if you’re reading this review, you do not need to be convinced or cajoled to hoof it to the theater to see Fast & Furious 6. You also don’t need encouragement to feel as if you, too, are like Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner, or their brothers- and sisters-in-wheels on the way home, pretending your Hyundai Sonata or beat-up pickup truck is a tricked-out muscle car. The thrill of these ciphers driving very fast, recklessly so, along with a number of impressively insane stunts, allows Fast & Furious 6 to be just good and fun enough.

Vin Diesel, looking like a human-sized vehicle himself, and Paul Walker return as Toretto and O’Conner, as does pretty much every other actor who’s had more than a handful of lines in the previous five films in the franchise. This time, Toretto and O’Conner, along with the rest of their crew, are encouraged to leave behind their ritzy digs in countries that don’t extradite to the US, and get behind the wheel once more. Now, though, they’re working for the government, represented by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his new partner (MMA fighter/Haywire star Gina Carano), to take down a nefarious British thief and his fellow criminals, among them Dom’s apparently not-dead lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Dom cares less about the job and more about getting Letty back, but of course, fast-moving complications ensue.

fast furious 6 tyrese

Fast & Furious 6 is either unaware of how ridiculously stupid it is, or it’s counting on the audience to not care. (Seeing as how widely embraced the series is by audiences, the answer is likely the latter.) That the movie works in any capacity is a testament to the escalating action setpieces concocted by screenwriter Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin. The strength of this movie, or any of its predecessors, is not in the thinly-drawn relationships between these characters, which makes the hour of the film that’s not dedicated to characters fighting or driving a bit of a slog. The only consistently enjoyable aspect of Fast & Furious 6 that isn’t specific to the action is Tyrese Gibson, who slips back into the comic-relief role here with ease. His jokes don’t always land, even when he’s bantering with Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, but he actually seems excited to take part in the film, whether he’s riffing or riding. Everyone else glowers, but Gibson’s smiling.

The non-action scenes focus mostly on Dom’s attempts to reach out to an initially unwilling Letty. (This review will not spoil why Letty doesn’t immediately match Dom’s embrace, but let it not go unsaid that this movie owes a great, if laughable, debt to soap operas.) Diesel and Rodriguez have, in other films, exuded likability, charm, and a general liveliness that is absent here. When these actors are behind the wheel of a car, or tank or other vehicular device, Fast & Furious 6 comes alive. And what impresses in those action sequences is more the audacity of their creation than the execution. Too often, Lin’s camera is jittery and unstable; we can only be so invested in a car chase if we truly understand the location of the various vehicles as well as who’s inside them. Even then, however, the stakes are raised so outrageously that it’s hard not to be impressed by the ballsiness of a scene where muscle cars face off with a military tank, or of a nighttime chase in the deserted streets of London.

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Outside of Gibson and Bridges, the cast mostly mumbles and stares into the middle distance. And sure, you aren’t buying a ticket to Fast & Furious 6 to watch Shakespearean actors emoting, but seeing as half of this movie is action-free, it’d be nice if these scenes had a pulse. Perhaps the most galling aspect is the villain, played by Luke Evans. It takes us roughly two-thirds of the film to appreciate exactly how fearsome Evans’ character is, as terrifying as he’s been built up through dialogue: his character appears to get a sick thrill from killing innocent civilians in the middle of a car chase. Evans, like the others, isn’t particularly bad in Fast & Furious 6 so much as wooden and given little to work with.

If Fast & Furious 6 was just action, just cars or fists barreling into each other, for two hours, it’d be one of the best action movies if only for being relentless. Perhaps that’s what this movie needed most, a more unrelenting quality. When we pause each time to let the characters converse about what’s happened, or about why family is so important to them (and don’t worry, you’ll hear that word a lot), it’s as if we’re Milhouse Van Houten, asking when exactly we’ll get to that damn fireworks factory. Once we arrive there, the results are as goofy, exciting and thrilling as we’d want. The lags between those explosive moments are simply too drawn out.

— Josh Spiegel

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