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 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.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.”
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.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.)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 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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