Quick Forward: I was supposed to review We’re the Millers but didn’t get a chance so here’s an abridged version: It sucks. The same mean spirited, obnoxious trite that clogs up movie theaters like a diet of cheeseburgers does to a heart. Sure there’s a laugh to be had here or there, but they are few and far between slogs of unlikeable, un-endearing characters who essentially exist so that Jason Sudeikis can point at them like a carnival sideshow and crack jokes at their expense.
The Fast and the Furious series was never something intended to be understood as the final, lasting work of anyone involved. However events surrounding the film have shaped it to be so. This subsequently restricts a lot of what you can say about it given that anything negative can easily be construed into disrespecting the late Paul Walker. It’s completely understandable and may even warranted given the harsh treatment these movies occasionally get for being little more than a gasoline fueled version of 90s television. Never attempting to leave that comfort zone gives them more substance for it, but the human condition isn’t something these movies care about beyond the simple morals of friends, family, and loyalty being important. The human condition isn’t something these movies care about beyond the simple morals of friends, family, and loyalty being important. So while racing cars may seem like a rebellious misuse of the characters’ potential, it’s always fun to watch someone use the impact of a car crash like a springboard un-ironically.
Trying to deconstruct a Fast and Furious movie would be akin to trying to wind a digital clock. It’s looking for complexity that isn’t there while missing the complexity that is; these movies play as straight action, but the story tends to fall somewhere in the range of soap operas, now complete with the use of amnesia to bring back a character thought to be dead. Paul Walker has had a lot of press and I personally don’t feel that it’s worth rehashing it again because eventually it just becomes insulting to his memory. Walker was a good actor and while these aren’t the movies you should judge him by, they are his legacy.
Dominic Torretto, having busted out of prison and subsequently robbed a Brazilian police station of a corrupt businessman’s ill-gotten wealth, has since been laying low and off the radar. However his old frienemy and CIA agent Luke Hobbs collects him and his team to take down an international bad guy, Owen Shaw, who also happens to be really good at driving a car. This is the well known, “Takes a maniac to catch a maniac” approach that cops are always using. This time Hobbs has been paired with a new partner, Riley (MMA fighter Gina Carano), and Toretto has a blast from the past with the return of his late love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) as another henchman to Shaw because coincidence is convenient for screenwriting. People drive fast, shiny cars, guns are fired, eventually a tank shows up to flatten cars, and The Rock remembers to leave the baby oil at home this time (for the most part).
Despite the formulaic approach one might expect from a franchise that can effectively print money in the early months of summer, these movies do understand that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. This movie knows how to work its characters and cars, effectively tagging up everyone to have equal and opposite bad guy counterparts to fight in different combinations. Unlike the previous movies all the times spent outside of their cars is to fight, or is brief enough that you don’t mind the wait until they get back into their cars or fight some more (or both). This lasts until the final climactic ‘funsplosion’ where everyone on each of the teams go at it all at once, traditionally on or around things with wheels that are moving quickly. The action doesn’t grind to a halt like it has in former installments. Like I said this movie isn’t a revelation, it just knows what it wants to do and does it well. Compared to the rest of the movies in this series, this one probably does it best.
What’s good to know about movies like these is that they exist as a means to an end for some of the people involved. Passion projects that probably wouldn’t get a green light on their own can hedge their risk against a movie or two with a broader audience. For Vin Diesel, Riddick is probably his most interesting character, outside of the Iron Giant. His underrated introduction in Pitch Black gives him an interesting angle as well. That and the mythos of his universe are things Vin really wants to share with us, but can’t seem to get quite right in the final product. So my only reason to hope these movies continue to make money is for the off chance that producers can bite the bullet on Vin’s more interesting career choices. It’s the same reason I don’t really mind Ben Affleck as Batman. At worst it’s all a stepping stone towards better things. And if you happen to like it, then there really isn’t any problem with it. Fast and Furious 6 doesn’t try to be anything more or less than what it is.
Watch the trailer below, and check out Fast and Furious 6, Saturday the 17th at 8PM on HBO.