It was only a matter of time before I infringed upon Mindless Action Mondays, right? This only leaves Single Malt Movies and Strange Bacon that I haven’t done, so I’m thinking maybe later I’ll watch a Canadian movie and base a mixed drink on it. It’ll be a blast. Anyway, Drew won’t care, since he’s still in the throes of his Madsathon, honoring Danish Superstar Mads Mikkelsen. So, now that I’ve sort of justified this to myself…
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
The Plot: In 2011’s Fast Five, Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team pull off an incredible heist in Rio de Janeiro. Taking the millions of dollars in hand, he, Brian (Paul Walker), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Tej (Ludacris), and Gisele (Gal Gadot), are all enjoying quiet, private, sexy retirements around the world. When superbadguy Shaw (Luke Evans) assembles his own culturally and sexually diverse team of drivers, loveable government stooge Hobbs (Dwayne the Rock Johnson) has no choice but to bring Toretto out of retirement to help catch the bad guys. His logic being “you need wolves to catch wolves.” Hey man, I’m not going to argue with that guy.
So yeah, this is the sixth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s been an interesting progression. The first few films were just about street racing. The focus was on cars, explosions, and… cars. It wasn’t until later that they added elements like plot and character. Don’t worry, you still get plenty of those other things; it’s just all improved quite a lot. Now, before I launch into a full review, I just have one disclaimer: nothing in my training or experience as a film critic has prepared me for this movie. As I was walking home from the theater, I realized I couldn’t critique this film the same way I would other movies. I wanted to say that certain characters were underwritten, that the action was unbelievable, that it was too long, that it had a few too many chase scenes, but… ugh, but I can’t say those things, and here’s why:
- The Characters: They’re actually fine. It’s an ensemble movie. Writer Chris Morgan (Fast Fiver, Fast and Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) does an excellent job bringing together all of the disparate plotlines of the previous franchise installments and somehow produces a believable continuity. It’s damn impressive. We have a main cast of about thirteen, and while not all of the characters are as important as Vin Diesel or The Rock or Paul Walker, none of them feel wholly superfluous. For a while I did kind of feel like Gina Carano’s character was tacked on so they could have another woman, but… I dunno, it kinda worked.Every member of the team contributes, they enjoy witty banter with each other, and you get emotionally invested in each of them. Vin Diesel of course has his thing with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez); I didn’t mention that earlier, but whatever. Paul Walker is now a dad and has those considerations. But you know which one I ended up caring most about? Han, who’s kind of a minor character in the grand scheme, but he has a really nice arc somehow.
- The Villain: I was afraid that they were going to get a bit lazy with the villain. Essentially, he (and his entire crew) are just the evil European reflections of Toretto & Co. Roman even makes a joke about that. So, Luke Evans is evil. He doesn’t care when his goons die, and is more than happy to kill innocent people if he needs to or even just feels like it. He’d be a point for complaint, except for one great scene between him and Toretto when he pretty much explicitly acknowledges that he’s a flat, underwritten villain with shallow motivations. He also acknowledges that Toretto is a really honorable, likeable dude and admits that he admires that. It pretty much validates his one-dimensionality. I’ve never seen that in a movie before.
- The Action: I mentioned that this movie is long. It’s 130 minutes. Did it need to be that long? Actually, yeah, sort of. The action sequences are frequent, lengthy, and totally ridiculous, but they’re carefully balanced with plot and character development. It’s a surprisingly well-written movie for the genre. The dialogue is sharp, clever, and I laughed quite a few times. I also laughed quite a few times at the action. It is absurd, almost in the literary sense of the word. Physics don’t apply at all. People jump from moving vehicle to moving vehicle, they survive insane crashes, and seldom even get bruised. My favorite example of this over-the-top action is the climax, though. I won’t spoil anything, but the whole thing takes place on and around a cargo plane that is preparing for take off. Though moving the entire time, the plane never actually leaves the tarmac. The Internet was kind enough to do the calculations for me, but considering average velocity and time, this whole thing takes place on a twenty-eight mile runway.
- The Attitude: Giving it some thought, I decided that this was the reason the movie succeeded. They have the right attitude. It’s not too serious, but it’s serious enough. The characters know when to laugh and when to…well, Diesel don’t cry, but he can be grim. The movie knows when it’s being dumb, though, and is proud of those moments. I know I should have negative things to say about Fast and Furious 6, but I can’t think of any. Is it a perfect movie? No. Am I regarding this as I regarded The Hunt? No. But here’s the thing. It knew precisely what kind of movie it wanted to be, and it achieved that goal. Didn’t aim too high, didn’t aim too low. Let this be an important lesson for movie critics: a movie can only be judged relative to its own ambition. In that regard, Fast and Furious 6 flawlessly hit its mark.
I’ll say this, though, and let this be my one major complaint; Fast and Furious 6 is not a good title, especially considering previous films in the franchise. These can’t be the same geniuses who thought up 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is a great title for a movie.