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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fast & Furious 6



Fast & Furious 6 (or just Furious 6 according to the opening credits and the preferences of four-time Fast & Furious director Justin Lin) is a car-smashing, forehead-slapping, sensationally good time at the movies. Even in this sixth outing, Furious 6 proves there's a shocking amount of gas and nitrous in the tank of the Fast & Furious franchise. Furious 6 gleefully reunites the entire cast from Fast Five, the "family" of high-octane international car racing criminals headed by Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, which includes Jordanna Brewster, Ludacris, Tyrese, Gal Gadot, and Sung Kang. And of course, their cars. Diesel's crew absconded with hundreds of millions of dollars in Fast Five and are now living the high life in glamorous locales all across the world, from Spain, to Brazil, to Hong Kong, but they are wanted criminals in the United States and yearn to return home.

This time, their nemesis from Fast Five, The Rock, joined by new recruit Gina Carano, comes to Diesel's crew with a proposal to help him find international terrorist Luke Evans, who heads his own cartel of car racing mercenaries specializing in "vehicular warfare". Evans is trying to steal a Nightshade Device, a McGuffan that can render an entire nation "electronically blind". The Rock offers Diesel his own personal McGuffan: the whereabouts of Michelle Rodriguez, Diesel's one true love, who was seemingly killed in Fast Five, but is now an amnesiac running with Evan's villains. Luckily, The Rock commands some sort of international organization that has jurisdiction over the British authorities and Interpol. The Rock can even personally make deals that will give Diesel and his friends total amnesty to return to the U.S. if they can retrieve the Nightshade Device.

After a cheerful Ocean's Eleven-like "getting the gang back together" montage, Diesel's crew and The Rock's lawmen descend on London, and proceed to tear the streets of Old Blighty apart in a series of spectacular car chases that must have caused billions in property damage. Lin stages a series of action sequences that escalate in thrilling, totally unbelievable fashion, with hilarious, gasp-inducing stunts and miracle saves by Diesel, The Rock and Walker. At first Diesel's racing team is defeated by Evans' technology, which includes guns that can fire electrical nanobots that can disable cars. Evans himself drives an armored Formula One racing car that can launch other cars into the air when smashing into them headlong. Buggered by all this new tech, Diesel's group splits up into smaller groups in classic Justice League style to get some intel on Evans' and prepare to get back to the races.

Can Diesel reach Rodriguez and get her to realize who she is and how much Vin Diesel really loves her? Can Diesel's crew take on Evans' team in a balls-to-the-wall car race on the bridges of Spain, as Evans pilots a tank and smashes every car in his way? What about when an actually surprising betrayal occurs and Evans tries to escape aboard a transport plane, racing against Diesel's team on the world's longest airport runway? Can Diesel, Walker, and The Rock team up together and bring that plane down in flames? You'd better fucking believe it. Walker can even get himself secretly smuggled into a United States prison overnight, find out what really happened that caused Rodriguez to escape death but contract amnesia (her amnesia is never, ever questioned by anyone and no one ever asks to see her medical records), and return to London in time for the second and third crazy ass car chases.

For such a massive cast of characters and an absurd amount of action and exposition to address, Furious 6's screenplay by Chris Morgan is a miracle of structure, efficiently finding pieces of business for every single character in the cast where no one gets lost in the shuffle and every character contributes to move the story forward. (In all seriousness, Warner Bros. should take a hard look at Furious 6's structure as they try to figure out their Justice League movie. Therein lies the key to solving that puzzle.) Diesel oversees the proceedings with a calm, laid back confidence and bemusement. Walker, now a father with a newborn with Brewster, is an able number two, as ever. Diesel and Walker's bromance steadily anchors the whole shebang; it's heartwarming to see that after all these years, the love between those two is as strong as ever. But there's plenty of Diesel to go around, for Rodriguez, as well as for The Rock, who gets to tag team with Diesel in the final fight and even unleash a classic wrestling double team move: the Road Warriors' Doomsday Device. 

Everyone gets in on the wisecracking fun, no one moreso than Tyrese, a relentless comedy machine who steals every scene he's in and is the butt of everyone (mostly Ludacris') jokes. (Tyrese mocking The Rock for smelling like baby oil scores every time.) Gadot and Kang hang back on their own, a solid romantic unit happy to provide B team support, and putting themselves on the line to contribute and sacrifice themselves as necessary. Evans is a formidable villain up to the task of taking on all of these cartoon characters and never losing his edge. If there's a loser in Furious 6, it's Carano, who can beat up any man in her way but loses two separate fights to Rodriguez. Furious 6 also admirably sticks to the old maxim that if you introduce a grapple gun in act one, you get to fire that grapple gun in act three. (All the times Tyrese blunders firing that grapple gun don't count.) 

Brimming with callbacks to all of the previous films in the franchise, especially the original Fast and the Furious, Furious 6 comes full circle to seemingly end the saga in triumph as the best Fast & Furious movie of all. And just when you think the races are over, Furious 6 lobs one final fiery surprise over the closing credits, introducing the new Furious Big Bad and cranking up anticipation for the inevitable Furious 7. These Fast & Furious movies may seem expendable but the next one promises to be a brand new death race.