Sunday, 19 May 2013

Film Review: Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Chris Morgan
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez

This sixth (yes sixth) entry in the ever-increasingly popular Fast and Furious series is too loud, too stupid, and too nonsensical to be judged as anything other than, well, a Fast and Furious film. It straddles the lines between fun and utter garbage from the first minute to the last, but somehow, through the belief in its own convictions, Fast and Furious 6 end up being just about more fun than dumb. It may be 51% against 49% but a good time is there to be had.

The old adage of “leave your brain at the door” to enjoy a big budget film is not one this reviewer subscribes to; all films should make sense at their very base level and their characters’ motivations should be clear, regardless of what the film is. Action scenes should be driven by plot, not slapped in every ten minutes because without them the story would have nowhere to go. Fast and Furious 6 ignores all of these rules as any hint of plot is regurgitated in the first five minutes and the characters are brought together yet again in the most unbelievable of circumstances. What follows is two hours of almost non-stop car chases, fights, explosions which are all big enough to be the final sequence in most other films.

That is precisely the problem with Fast and Furious 6 and what made the previous instalment Fast Five so undeniably entertaining. In the last film, each action scene was gradually bigger than the last with a bus flip, then a car/train chase, then a fantastic rooftop chase, then a shootout in the streets, and finally the gloriously over-the-top set piece where two cars drag a bank safe and use it as a wrecking ball. In this film, the first car chase through the streets of London is so bombastic that it doesn’t care it’s characters couldn’t survive the car crashes because there’s still 90 minutes to come; it’s the A Good Day To Die Hard effect all over again where carnage has no consequence as long as it’s loud.

Taking each action scene on its own, the credit must go to director Justin Lin for executing them, for the most part, with a controlled and assured camera, and free of the dread shaky camera. His film isn’t as technically proficient as his previous Fast Five and the reliance on poor CGI and people jumping from car to car instantly detracts from the credibility of the scene, but there are still plenty of set pieces to enjoy here. If only the film makers could have kept the action scenes to a similar length as Fast Five, this really could have been a thrilling ride, but instead it just become an exercise in what “vehicular warfare” as one character says. This can be fun but it doesn’t make for a genuinely great action film when you start to hope each scene will wrap up and move on to the next.

To that point, at 130 minutes Fast and Furious 6 is far too long for a film with this depth and it’s a sign of the series taking itself seriously, as if anyone actually cares about these characters when all we want to see is outrageous and real stunt driving. This series shouldn’t be concerning itself with babies, relationships, and break ups when the characters and their dialogue never come close to being anything other than a human to drive a car really fast.

The cast is functional and Dwayne Johnson adds a level of dynamism which the lead, Vin Diesel never had, and is perfect for this level of action fare. Luke Evans makes for a good villain when he’s speaking but the character’s motivations are never clear and are soon put to one side in favour of more action from all involved. The problem again here, however, is caused by having so many characters and needing to cram them all in; the final sequence is a complete mess and the worst set piece in the film when it should be the most exciting because there is simply too much going on and all focus is lost. Compare this to the final scene in Fast Five and the diminished tension and fun is all too apparent.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The Fast and Furious series should never be at a sixth part but you can’t help but give it credit for sticking to its original MO; fast cars, beautiful women, muscular men, lavish locations, and a paper-thin story tying them all together. Maybe it has peaked at part five, but part six is still doing what the series set out to do, only bigger and on a much grander scale than anyone could ever have hoped for in 2001. For good or bad, this film may be many things, but fun is certainly one of them and sometimes that is just about enough.

Roll on Fast and Furious 7 next July, but let’s hope it’s slightly smaller in scale. No chance there then.

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