(Editing that is) Fast & Furious 6 Review

Fast & Furious 6 Review
By Bret Dorman

If there is one thing that should be a no brainer, its that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be a mega movie star. And while he may be doing well at the box office, his movies are frustrating at best. Much like with GI Joe Retaliation, Fast & Furious 6 sets out to have some silly fun, but botches the fun.

I may not be a fan of the franchise, but is it so much to ask as a fan of action movies that action scenes be shot and edited in a way that doesn’t make you squirm in your seat as try to decipher what’s happening so you can enjoy it?

The whole gang.

The whole gang.

The Story: Dom and Brian (Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) have quit badguy-ing to start families. But when Hobbs (The Rock) shows them a picture of Letty (Michele Rodriguez) they leave their families to protect their family. They gather up the usual members of their badguys-now-goodguys family and fight a non-family of badguys-currently-badguys. But how far woud you go for your family? Also, their favorite show is reruns of Family Matters.

The first indication this movie won’t be nearly as fun as Fast Five is that this movie is ALL about family. That’s right, instead of opting for the fun, silly antics of lovable sort-of-badguys pulling off a heist-y heist, The Fast Franchise has decided to turn itself into full blown big budget soap opera starring the occasional car race. The franchise has been steadily imploding ever since it began in 2001. For every one new character or element they add, they make sure to add 2 or 3 things that make the characters reflect back on their past and how everything came to be. Oddly enough, the more self-indulgent the series gets, the more self-satisfying it gets as well. After all, if I was a fan of the franchise, I would want these movies to treat the material seriously. As a fan of the Metal Gear Solid game series, I can say that as much as that series pokes fun at the genre and itself, it also takes the moments it needs to very seriously and as a result, becomes better.

Vin Diesel make growl noises! Grrr!

Vin Diesel make growl noises! Grrr!

When I compare Fast & Furious 6 to a soap opera, I don’t do so lightly. Letty has a major case of classic amnesia, allowing the writers to make her a badguy without making her bad. In fact, no main character in this franchise is ever in danger of being really bad. And like most badguys who want to leave the life but are called in by the government for a favor, the issue of ‘pardons’ is brought up. And not just any pardons, FULL pardons. The negotiation process always seems to go like this:

“We want full pardons.”
“I can’t guarantee that.”
“It’s that or nothing!”
“I’ll see what I can do.”

Paul Walker is bored. Yawn!

Paul Walker is bored. Yawn!

I actually wanted to include another line instead of “It’s that or nothing!” that I thought was cheesier and more cliche, but the movie actually used it (Vin Diesel steps into the negotiations at the end to add dramatic weight to it). Also, the movie sets up Dom with the Brazilian cop chick from Fast 5, only to immediately introduce his former flame. I can’t remember how much romance their characters developed in 5, but I’m not sure why she needed to be there. Especially since the point of this movie was to bring back Dom’s dead lover, Letty. Is this a major source of dramatic tension? No, because Brazil Cop Chick tells Dom to go for it, that’s what she would have done if she found out her husband were still alive. I actually admire this ridiculous romance set up (and Mia’s “You’re stronger together” reasoning why her husband should help her brother go maybe die in car chases), because instead of milking it for false tension or tedious screen time, they acknowledge it and move on. But that leads to the question why bring her back? Seems to be the point is to basically say, ‘Don’t worry fellas! Dom has still been getting laid regularly in between movies! He’s so cool!’

And indeed these characters are cool! The banter back and forth, which is a must have for a fun summer movie. The only problem is between the script and cast, most of the dialogue and chemistry comes off mundane. Tyrese is the most straight up comic relief character, which is sad because most of his parts are groan inducing. Ludacris actually does his best carrying the entire film, interacting with the most characters and having some relaxed fun with The Rock. The weirdest of all the characters though is Brian, who takes a sudden side journey in this movie to basically figure out a bunch of stuff we already know and get one key line that will be important near the end without really being that important. I think his journey is filled with a bunch of references to the other movies, but I’m not sure. At one point a character has something happen to him and he whines “not again” but no one laughed.

Tyrese and Ludacris make jokes! Yawn!

Tyrese and Ludacris make jokes! Yawn!

All of the baddies are generic baddies except for Luke Evans as the main baddie who is upgraded to bland baddie. His ‘thing’ is he likes to be precise and in control. He sees henchmen as extremely expendable. So you wonder why, when Dom & Co. come along and they only care for Letty, not him, he doesn’t just give her up. Then you realize everything is part of the plan! (<- remember that thing Brian learned that was important without being important! He remember this after it becomes clear the badguy has a plan for everything.)

So Fast & Furious 6 treats comedy like a corporate boss might. He might crack a joke or two, but the moment you really start to have fun he steps in to squash your hopes and dreams. This movie treats the American Justice System like Play-Doh, molding it to its whim, usually silly shapes. And this movie treats relationships like a teen vampire-werewolf flick on steroids. Everyone says what needs to be said, but instead of saying the ‘dreamy’ thing, they say the ‘dude bro’ thing. (After Vin Diesel has a sexy one on one with Michele Rodriguez and her amnesia-rattled mind, she leaves all confused and he has the biggest douchiest smirk on his face like “Oh yeah, she’ll be back. I said all the right things and soon she’ll be begging me for more.” The scene is less about love and more about Vin Diesel patting himself on the back.)

Sung and Gal make romance! Squee!

Sung and Elsa make romance! Squee!

But what about the action?! Surely all this mix-matching of bad-silly and cheesy-drama is forgivable, heck, even enjoyable is the action is as crazy awesome as Fast 5 right?!

Well, the action scenes are inspired. But that’s about it.

What do I mean inspired? I mean every set piece has a cool element to it. From suped up bullet proof F1 cars to a tank on a highway to The Rock jumping from anything onto anything to the already now infamously ridiculously long runway set piece, there’s always some aspect of the action moments to stand out from the rest. The problem is, the execution of every action moment is hectic at best. Fast and Furious could apply to the cars and the characters as well as the editing style of all the car chases and fight scenes. Fast because no shot lasts longer than a second as the camera whips around and Furious because it is aggressively trying to dare you to enjoy the moment. The car chases never feel like you’re in the car or along for the ride. They feel like you are watching someone very animated talk about a cool thing they saw. The hand to hand combat feels like someone jamming a couple action figures together while you try to focus on who is doing what and where everything is happening.

The Rock make muscles. Rawr!

The Rock make muscles. Rawr!

The most disappointing part is the fact that the movie treats its characters like super humans while trying to also make them regular humans. However the movie never fully embraces this aspect. Every ridiculous stunt the characters go through is meant to be really dangerous and their lives really at stake. But when you have to up the craziness of your action movie, I think its only fair you up their tolerance for pain and willingness to exploit it. I like all the aspects of a movie like Fast & Furious 6: the super serious character talk, the doofy character banter, the outrageous stunts, the increasingly confusing timeline, and overall mythology. The franchise has gone from logical to silly to crazy to absurd, but I can only hope they have the balls to take it a step further and go to out right insane.

As summer kicks into the heavy stuff, I can only hope that we see more like Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness than we do the rest of the action movies that have been coming out this year. This idea that crazy action should be portrayed as chaotically as possible in every aspect is getting more and more tiresome.

In Conclusion, I’ll keep rooting for The Rock to star in a good movie again (The Rundown is his best entry in the action genre), but it looks like Fast & Furious 6 is more concerned with taking the easy route. The franchise itself has become a list of dos and don’ts. It has its ups and downs. Unfortunately most of them have been down. Let’s just hope that now that Jason Statham is confirmed for Fast 7, the franchise takes some hints from the Cranks in terms of insanity and from The Transporter (1 & 2) in terms of action clarity and The Expendables in terms of character personas. And lets hope Statham is a real badguy, not one of these misunderstood baddies who gets pardoned at some point and joins forces with the gang. And lets also hope Statham fights The Rock and vin Diesel at the same time and that you can ACTUALLY SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING.

Final Grade: C- (Again, I like everything in theory. As to how this can get a higher grade than GI Joe, which is a much more fun movie and better executed? Easy, both movies have crappy action, but GI Joe wasted more potential. Fast 6 is just average all around, with the bad only slightly dragging down the more mundane blandness.)

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12 responses to “(Editing that is) Fast & Furious 6 Review

  1. If you are unsure if the prison scene had references to previous films then yes it does. Before you start bashing the hell out of the movie for being “soap opera”-y you need to watch the previous movies. An underlying theme in all the movies is family. Dom’s crew is his family, and Letty is apart of that. People who have seen the previous films saw the movie not for the bad guy but because of Letty. As far as camera editing, the fast, crazy, all of the place camera work that Lin uses works well because your in an enclosed space and a bunch of things are happening at once. If you have slow camera work you don’t get into the middle of the action, you can just sit there and disconnect. The crazy camera work keeps you in the movie and embracing the crazy nonstop action that the movie is. My tip to you is watch the previous films and a lot of Fast Six will make more sense and be a lot better.

    • One, I did not “bash the hell” out of this movie. I gave it a C-. And the soap opera remark is not necessarily a bad thing. It IS very soap opera-y. And yes, I understand that “family” plays a key role in these movies. But “love” plays a key role in the Twilight films. That doesn’t make those great movies.

      As far as fast editing goes, I stand my ground COMPLETELY. There is NO WAY you can tell me that slow, steady camera work in fight scenes will DISCONNECT ME from the action.

      Look at this scene from Merantau: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JpGe_QBpcg
      Or this scene from Hanna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFpdZUDs6tE

      In both of those cases, the slow, steady camera pulls you into the action, because you can actually see what is happening, therefor distinguish the characters and see the danger, instead of just a bunch of loud/fast things ‘happening.’ I understand why this style of fast hectic cutting occurs and some people even manage it well, but for the most part it just makes for a mess.

      I have seen ALL of the Fast movies. I understood everything from Fast 6 on a conceptual level. Yes, there are tiny little moments that make others “more profound” (ha) but for the most part, you don’t need to sit down and obsess and take notes and notice every little bit of connective tissue they force into the franchise to like this movie more. You obviously REALLY like the Fast franchise. I think all together its mediocre at best. No I won’t REWATCH all the movies to enjoy this movie more. My main problem is with the action, not the soap opera-esque story.

      • The situations that I can think of that the camera work is all over the place was inside the prison cell and the airplane. Both places are small enclosed spaces. The plane scene was pure craziness because there was three or four people fighting all at the same time so you could not pan the camera too far out or you would have several fights in one scene. The prison cell you could not pan out because simply put, its a prison cell. I will withdraw my statement about slow steady camera work, it works in some situations, especially when you have room to work. But sometimes you cannot avoid having close shots that are moving place to place because there is several things happening at once in a small space. As far as the movie goes, I didn’t watch it for the action so I can’t debate with you much on that, I watched it because of Letty’s return.

      • Once again, watch the Merantau fight. Enclosed space (elevator) that shows fight scenes don’t HAVE to be shot crazy hectic in those confined spaces. There’s also a great “one shot take” in “I Saw The Devil” of a camera IN a car revolving around its characters as they “fight.” It CAN be done. The crazy fast editing/close ups/shakiness are done mostly to disguise poor choreography and stunt people and because the main actors can’t do things as complex as other actors in other movies.

      • Try watching The Raid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf82xMr5fGg

        I’m not saying every movie has to be like this, but once you see it you will be spoiled with its awesomeness. Also, I thought Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel had good fights. Still a lot of hectic stuff, but there were enough payoffs inbetween to enjoy. Fast 6 is better than GI Joe, hence the better grade, but its still frustrating to see so many good movies with wasted potential.

      • I am a fan of The Raid, and I agree the camera work is very well done. I guess I am just use to the shakiness that comes with action movies where the actors are frequently switched out for doubles. And I agree, it drives me nuts sometimes when movies drop the ball. I am biased with the Fast and Furious because I’ve grown up watching them so I guess I am overly loyal to them and obviously over protective.

      • I tried to be fair and say at the top of the review (explored more in depth in the podcast, which we are still trying to find our “voice/tone”) that the changes I would make, go against The Fast Franchise’s philosophies in general.

        For instance, I thought the Prison segment was a huge waste of time. I like the IDEA that Brian can just waltz his way in/out of a maximum security prison, but ultimately didn’t care for the info learned/gained.

        But I tried to be self-aware enough to (not constantly have to point out) that WITHIN context of the Fast Franchise, which is unapologetically self-referential and for “the fans” that this segment is all fan service and tying into previous films.

        Since I am not a Franchise Fan I gave it my honest opinion. On the one hand I picked it apart and on the other I admired its ballsiness.

        And just because we “get used to” mediocre to bad action (Fast 6 was mediocre action-wise I’d say) doesn’t mean we can’t still be critical of it.

      • I agree that the prison scene was unneeded for the movie itself and only served as a tie-in for the fourth film. And I can agree that action wise the Fast and Furious Franchise is mediocre, but what has always made me like the movies, especially with the original cast, was that there was more to it than meets the eye. I liked that the bad guys weren’t necessarily bad guys and that they actually had a ‘code’. After awhile you just get attached to characters and the action takes a back seat.

      • And again, you’re a fan of the franchise, so somehow it grabbed you more than it did me (the series as a whole). That’s why I tried to tie in Metal Gear Solid, which isn’t a movie (although some would argue more movie than video game with its extra long cutscenes) and I know everyone hasn’t played through them.

        But something about those characters pulled me in. In MGS4, there are certain things that are done/undone that for most people, are “meh.” But for me, as a fan, I was blown away.

        Something I’ve been “struggling” witha lately as someone who tries to view things critically is why some things just automatically seem to get on “my bad side” and others on “my good side.” The same reasons I defend MGS are the same reasons you defend Fast&Furious. I’m aware of all the “bad” things about MGS but I don’t care. I acknowledge them and laugh with everyone else and can poke “fun at it,” but I also will defend the series vehemently, as you do F&F.

        So yeah I don’t know. I pick apart Fast 6, but know full well any criticisms I make are from an “outsiders” point of view. This series seems to have a very loyal following, and I can dig that. I just don’t dig all the films themselves.

        I would suggest listening to this podcast: http://www.slashfilm.com/filmcast-ep-229-fast-and-furious-6-guest-jen-yamato-from-deadline/

        1) Its a great podcast. 2) They really like the franchise and are probably more critical of it from an “insiders” point of view while praising it for connecting all the movies and expanding on the action.

      • Thanks for the link, it was really good. I agree with them for the most part. As far as Metal Gear Solid not being a movie…yet…its only a matter of time, but I read somewhere that the main character that you play (Snake?) is modeled after Snake Plissken from the movies Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. I have not had the fortune of being all that familiar with the MGS games but I am seriously surprised that no one has attempted a movie yet.

      • Its been rumored. I have my own thoughts on that.


        That’s an old post and the ideas are very idealistic but it was fun to write.

        Also yes, Snake (MGS) is loosely-to-very based on Snake (Escape). NY is a great movie, love early Carpenter. LA is along the lines of Evil Dead -> Evil Dead II, a parody of the first for fans of the first. Good stuff all around.

      • I would be deathly afraid to attempt a movie based on a game. Gamers can be very unforgiving if you fumble the ball. But Devil May Cry and MGS would be pretty cool to see in a movie. I saw L.A before I saw the first one, and like it better, but it is definitely having some fun at its own expense compared to the first one which is a serious action movie.

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