‘Fast & Furious 6’ turns out to be the best yet in the franchise
BY RICHARD ROEPER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST May 23, 2013 1:46PM
Heavy artillery and kamikaze divers prove to be no match for the tricked-out cars of “Fast & Furious 6,” the best yet in the long-running action series.
‘FAST & FURIOUS 6’ ★★★½
Dominic Toretto Vin Diesel
Luke Hobbs Dwayne Johnson
Brian O’Conner Paul Walker
Letty Michelle Rodriguez
Mia Jordana Brewster
Shaw Luke Evans
Riley Gina Carano
Roman Tyrese Gibson
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Justin Lin. Written by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: June 25, 2013 6:06AM
How ridiculously awesome are the stunts in “Fast & Furious 6”?
Put it this way: If the customized racing machines in this movie actually started talking to one another, a la Lightning McQueen and Mater in the “Cars” franchise, it would be only the third or fourth most outlandish trick they pulled off.
These cars not only defy gravity, they take on — well, I don’t want to give it away. But it’s craaaaaazy.
Against all odds, the billion-dollar “Fast & Furious” franchise is actually picking up momentum, with “FF6” clocking in as the fastest, funniest and most outlandish chapter yet.
Whether we’re seeing stunt work or special effects or a combo platter, director Justin Lin keeps raising the bar, going for intentional laughs and WTF moments as cars pull off impossible maneuvers and humans keep flying in the air and landing with thuds that would indicate death or crippling injuries, only to dust themselves off and appear in the next scene with artfully placed facial bruises.
“Ride or die” is the oft-repeated mantra of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). Of course, it’s the way they ride that keeps putting them at death’s doorstep.
Dom and Brian started this series on opposite sides of the law, but Brian’s cop days are long gone. He’s married to Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and they’ve just welcomed a son. Dom, Brian and the other members of the crew have scattered, living off the grid in cushy retirement.
Nothing could lure them back into the old and dangerous ways. Nothing!
Well. As we learned in the epilogue of “Fast Five” (REVERSE SPOILER ALERT!), Dominic’s girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), long thought to be dead, is in fact undead. Hold on, that would make her a zombie. She’s alive is what we mean to say.
Sporting T-shirts that look like they’d be too tight on Zoe Saldana and strutting with such peacockery we half-expect him to step back into the ring, Dwayne Johnson is back as Luke Hobbs, the CIA operative from “Fast Five.” Hobbs tracks down Dom, plunks down a file containing photos of a very much alive Letty and offers a deal: If Dom and his crew help Hobbs capture a terrorist who’s on the verge of turning the world upside down, Hobbs will deliver Letty to Dom “so you can make your family whole.” Dom responds if Hobbs throws in full pardons for everyone, it’s a deal.
Gentlemen (and ladies), start your engines. It takes only a series of phone calls to reunite the key members of the team, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot). Also joining the squad is another CIA agent: Riley (Gina Carano).
Gina Carano is BIG fun to watch. The former mixed martial arts sensation and star of Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire” is still a bit stilted with her line readings, but her two fight scenes with Michelle Rodriguez in “FF6” are just epic.
Though dropping in on numerous international locales (as well as Southern California), “Fast & Furious 6” is set primarily in London, and while the chase scenes might defy real-world geography, Lin makes great use of all his locations.
Luke Evans is just OK as super-villain Owen Shaw, the obligatory special ops legend turned ruthless super-villain. Diesel and Walker remain adept at looking good and delivering adequate line readings, each falling short when the screenplay requires any serious emotional lifting. It’s left to Gibson and Bridges to provide the comedic relief.
We come to the “Fast & Furious” movies for the action, not the acting, but as this film’s opening credits reintroduce us to the franchise, I realized I’d come to enjoy the main characters, as they careen between death-defying stunts and hokey barbecue scenes where they keep talking about the importance of family.
“FF6” couldn’t be any less plausible if it were animated, but that’s sort of the point. We have all these great-looking people and their awesome cars, and they actually believe if you drive fast enough, and you love your brothers-in-cars more than the bad guys love doing bad guy stuff, you can finish first.
This is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and is almost always successful fulfilling that mission.
EPILOGUE SPOILER ALERT: For reasons beyond me, the “Fast & Furious” franchise is not chronological. The third entry, “Tokyo Drift,” actually takes place after the fourth, fifth and sixth films — and the terrifically entertaining teaser for “Fast & Furious 7” indicates THAT film will take place after “Tokyo Drift.”