Fast & Furious 6 Review: Cars Go Vroom Vroom, Boom Boom, Now With Extra Smashy Smash
Oh, where to begin.
Let's zip through the plot first, shall we? Fast & Furious 6 -- you know they mean business when they drop the definite articles and swap in ampersands -- finds series protagonists Brian and Dom living the sweet life as millionaires (after stealing $100 million and wrecking most of Rio) in South America with Brian's wife/Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Dom's new lady friend Elena (Elsa Pataky). Of course, their opulent retirement is short-lived when secret agent man Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) shows up at their door asking for help in tracking down and apprehending some sort of super criminal who specializes in cars and guns and fancy technological doohickies and the fate of the world is at risk and blah blah. The hook is that the delightfully evil Owen Shaw, criminal mastermind and Legolas doppleganger, has enlisted the help of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom's girlfriend from the first couple of films who we thought died back in Fast & The Furious: No, The Other One, Dumbass. Dom gathers together his old crew, including Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), and Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges). Oh, and there's also Hobbs's new sidekick, Riley (Gina Carano).
What follows is... I don't even know where to begin. Fast & Furious 6 has one of those plots that's both jaw-slackeningly stupid while also being needlessly and excessively convoluted. Shaw and his crew of cold-blooded psychotics will stop at nothing to find the final component for their super-Maguffin, while Hobbs, Dom, and Brian must relentlessly pursue him through a combination of street smarts, detective work, fist- and gun-fights, and of course, a crap load of sweet, sweet rides. The story is dizzying and aimless, leaping from location to location, never staying in any one place for enough time for you to catch your breath.
As for the acting? Well, the ever-sneering, monotone gravel-gargling Vin Diesel's expression never changes, except that sometimes his mouth widens (slightly happy) and sometimes his lips purse (angry -- grrrr!) -- traits compounded by the fact that his voice never changes pitch or volume, ever, regardless of whether he's chasing his long-lost-love or brawling with bad guys. The personality vortex known as Paul Walker is even worse -- his dude-bro surfer boy good looks do nothing when his sole expression change consists of the occasional upturned mouth or forehead crinkle. The other characters, don't acquit themselves much better, though I'll always enjoy the opportunity to see Gina Carano kick someone's stomach into their esophagus. Unfortunately, Johnson suffers from a clinical case of grimness -- his firmly set jaw and perma-scowl compliments his tiresomely gruff demeanor and dead-eyed stares, but given Johnson's decent comedic strengths, it might have been nice to see him smile or crack a joke that wasn't about breaking someone in half.
The comic relief is instead left up to the shuck and jive duo of Gibson and Bridges, making for some rather unfortunate stereotyping. Of all the characters, they're given the least back story or emotional resonance (Han and Gisele are in a relationship and trying to decide on their future, Dom broods over Letty, Brian worries about Mia and his new baby son, etc.), and as such, their comedic stylings often fall flat. Similarly befuddling is the fact that over the course of these movies, Bridges's Tej has gone from prodigious auto mechanic to astonishing, Q-level genius who can instantly understand and operate any kind of technology. But at least it gives him something to do, as opposed to Gibson who simply cackles and aw-hell-naws his way through the film, blithely oblivious to the gaping hole in his soul that renders his character useless and dull.
OK, stop. Let's wait a second.
Folks, I apologize. I truly do, because the fact of the matter is -- you don't really care, do you? Do you? Because I've seen all six of these movies and truth be told, if I didn't have to write about it, I wouldn't care either. I certainly didn't care during the bloated, ultimate destruction disaster that was Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6 makes that film look like a goddamn wheel-less go-cart race for narcoleptics. There are two kinds of people in this world -- those who have no time or interest in the Fast and Furious franchise, and those who love the vroom-vroom, smashy-smash explodiness in spite of itself. Because while there are all of those elements that technically make it a movie -- you know, plot, dialogue, actors -- it's not the weak, idiotic story that you're there for. Or rather, it shouldn't be what you're there for. Watching the actors ineptly stagger through their weighty, overwrought dramatic scenes is merely the painful interlude between action scenes, and it is there that Fast & Furious 6 shines.
The film's action sequences and set-pieces are exercises in the ridiculous. They're loud, insanely unrealistic, and filled with such overwhelming bombast that it's nearly headache-inducing. But mother of God, they are fun. Once you accept the fact that the physics of the real world no longer applies to this franchise -- that two people can leap from moving vehicles, intersect in mid-air, and land safely and UNHARMED on the hood of a moving car, or that a car can get rear-ended by a tank and still have a solid four or five minutes for the driver to formulate a plan -- just after the tank is seen effortlessly reducing every other car it strikes into a metallic paste-- once you accept these things, then all that's left is to sit back and enjoy the spectacle. For the love of God, Diesel drives a car through the nose of an exploding C-130 cargo plane -- and doesn't even limp away, but rather casually struts his marble-mouthed ass down the runway. The car chases in the film are breathtaking, a testament to Justin Lin's skill as an action choreographer (he also directed the two previous entries). Curiously, Lin is also a skilled dramatic director, as his early film Better Luck Tomorrow indicates, but with these meatsacks he appeared to not bother and just skipped to blowing shit up.
What also makes the action work is a refreshing lack of CGI, something that has plagued some of the earlier F & F films. When it's used, it's used sparingly and integrated seamlessly, and as such the hijinks are all the more entertaining, even if they're fundamentally unbelievable. What really stuck with me is the absolutely unfathomable disregard for human life, something that came into play in Fast Five as well. As the good guys and bad guys careen through city streets or highway overpasses, they destroy everything in their path without a blink or a glance backwards. The loss of the lives of innocent bystanders must be staggering -- cars are crushed, hurled off of bridges, buildings collapse, bridges explode -- it's completely out of control. There is a scene where probably 90% of the London Interpol officers are killed, and it's barely referenced in the next scene. That's what takes the film out of the realm of realism and into pure escapist, video-game fantasy. There are never any real repercussions for any of their actions, even as they destroy half a city chasing two vehicles.
Fast & Furious 6 really is just Fast Five turned up to eleven. Same characters (with more characters from the other films popping up), same issues with authority, same kind of heartless criminals, same gonzo car porn and masturbatory explosion exercises. There's little thought put into anything besides the next action sequence, but there's no denying their wacky, brutally violent beauty. The film is ultimately a hollow, sweaty (dear god, there is so much sweating) shell of a film wrapped around a series of disasters that in the real world would end up with our characters tried in The Hague. But damn if it doesn't entertain -- as long as you acknowledge that after all of the boom-smash-vroom, you're likely going to be a little stupider.