Title: Fast & Furious 6
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Play time: 2h 10min
Director: Justin Lin
Screenwriters: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
The Fast and Furious franchise is deeply irritating. There are six films since 2001, with a seventh on the way, and each has made more money than the last. This is not unprecedented – Warner Bros. obviously churned out eight wildly popular Harry Potter films in rapid succession, and James Bond shows no signs of slowing down after 23 movies.
But those big, expensive franchises have been marked by flawless craftsmanship even – indeed, especially – in their later installments. Hell, even Saw, which perhaps a closer analogy, tried hard to push its weird story forward and deliver something colorably intriguing all the way through to the end.
Fast & Furious 6: Big Budget Spent in Vain?
And Furious – well, bahahahaha. I’ve never seen a mega-budget Hollywood production where it’s been so blatantly apparent how little anyone cares about any aspect of the film apart from the particular thing that’s seen as generating cash: viz., increasingly ridiculous chase action scenes that combine expensive cars, guns, mass destruction, and a complete disregard of the laws of physics.
Everything else – plot, dialogue, acting, characterization – is not just ignored, it’s set on fire. I didn’t make it through more than 40 minutes of the execrable A Good Day to Die Hard, but the mere presence of Bruce Willis in that 40 minutes made them more interesting than the last five Furious movies combined.
Too Much Jokes
Even by the standards of simpleminded action, it’s remarkable how little Furious 6 is about – the set-up here is so sparse it almost plays as a joke, a sneer at the notion that a film with this many car crashes could need something so snobbish as a story. (“There’s this guy who’s trying to get a computer chip that’s terrorist mumble mumble, and only your ‘crew’ can stop him!”)
Between chase scenes, we have to watch a diverse group of either attractive or very large non-actors repeatedly engage in a robotic imitation of “banter.” And because someone at the studio thought some nod toward emotional engagement was necessary, Vin Diesel croaks the word “family” at regular intervals.
None of this is new to this fifth sequel, but with each film the disregard for – well, everything – seems to become more gallingly up-front and cavalier. This does sometimes threaten to become entertaining in its own right: Furious 6 adds MMA star Gina Carano (whom you may remember from Soderbergh’s Haywire) to the “cast” as a sidekick to the hulking INTERPOL agent played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and she is so obviously terrible without even trying to hide it that the spectacle becomes weirdly compelling. (Johnson’s repeated non sequitur compliments about her intelligence are also unintentionally hilarious.) But mostly it’s insulting, depressingly cynical, and no fun to watch.
Can’t some of that $200 million pay for a screenplay? Why not hire a few actors to complement the wrestlers, MMA stars, martial artists, rappers, and models?
What’s to Praise in Fast & Furious 6?
Many have praised the action, but while it’s certainly expensive and progressively more insane, the execution is never more than competent. I did enjoy the freeway chase involving a tank, which has a certain Speed-like logic and rhythm that suggests that director Justin Lin may have learned a few things in four movies on the job.
There’s a climax that features cars hanging from a hulking cargo plane attempting to take off and lots of people fighting and shooting each other in the vicinity, and, I mean, it’s fine. I could generally tell who was where and what was happening. Any level of emotional investment in anything that had transpired over the course of six films would have helped.
It may be that these films give the people what they want, and I would only suggest that the people don’t want enough. Justin Lin has bowed out of Furious 7, due next summer, and the producers have hired James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence, Death Sentence, Insidious) to replace him. I’m a great admirer of Wan, who has spent a decade hammering out a niche in beautifully-crafted mid-budget genre films; I fear that this hulking behemoth of a franchise may anonymize him. Or maybe he’ll be the first director to give a shit about something other than car crashes and bikini-clad asses.