Fast & Furious 6

Flat out action, stalling script

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Catching up on a few odds and ends from 2013 before I launch into my first yearly roundup thing. First on the list- Fast & Furious 6 (or Furious 6 according to the movie’s title screen). I wasn’t a fan of the F&F series initially. The first one was fine, but the dire sequels and willful stupidity of it all turned me right off the franchise. I started paying attention to it again when Fast 5 defied all expectations and managed to be damn entertaining. Maybe I’ll review the whole series at some point when I hate myself enough to sit through 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift again.

“You’ve got the best crew in the world standing right in front of you, give them a reason to stay.”

In F&F 6, we catch up with our apparently lovable group of crooks, scattered across the globe and enjoying their big payday from their last heist. Brain O’Conner (Paul Walker) has just become a father, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is living a quiet, sunkissed life of retirement etc etc. All of that changes when the hench DDS agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his new partner Riley Hicks (Gina Carano) recruit Toretto and his crew, with the promise of full pardons for all, to catch an even more dangerous criminal outfit, led by a man named Shaw (Luke Evans). Toretto and his team must stop Shaw from getting his hands on some chip that is worth a lot of money and will do something bad if in the wrong hands (I honestly can’t remember exactly what, despite watching it last night). Just when you thought the plot couldn’t get thicker, it turns out that Toretto’s GF, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is not only alive, but is (gasp!) working for the other side. Cue lots of high-octane action and gruff mumbling. Maybe I’m being unfair and slightly too snarky with my plot synopsis, but it really is a case of “Tab A into Slot A” in terms of action moviemaking. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I was hardly expecting subtlety and nuance from a film like this. I bought a ticket for the same reason many others did- for the wicked sick car action. Having said that, the story was shockingly perfunctory. Dwayne Johnson is still the charismatic MVP, but Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the rest of the gang do well. Gina Carano is a nice addition too. Luke Evans is a passable baddie, although the film could have done better with him.

Let’s get this out of the way- the action is top-notch. No series does car porn better than F&F and 6 continues that streak. The sequences are over-the-top ridiculous fun. From the opening race (which reminded me of a better shot version of Quantum of Solace‘s opening gambit) to a brilliant tank sequence and culminating in a huge runway chase, it’s all high quality dumb entertainment. The cars move with balletic style and precision and it’s genuinely thrilling stuff. Much like Fast 5, there’s some genuine innovation amidst all the roaring engines and close-ups of the drivers looking determined. Even the hand-to-hand combat is decently done, with proper choreography in play and being decently shot to boot. I also dig the fact that it mostly takes place in London, even though the film can’t resist chucking in a snooty Englishman. The point being is that I was enjoying all the stunts an’ shit. It’s just a shame that the connective tissue holding the action beats together is as weak as it is.

I’m a big advocate of dumb fun. A script doesn’t have to be full of highbrow Oscar Wilde-esque lines to get a thumbs up from me. I love Michael Bay’s magnum dopus Bad Boys II, for instance. The lines and gags in that film are just barely above giggling at tits and basic toilet humour but I still laugh. I wanted this film to be complete guilty pleasure, rather than just constantly flirting with being one. I want the whole series to be better, which must show that I actually care enough about them to want improvement.  F&F 6‘s script is a clunky mess. Not only do we have hackneyed-as-shit elements like plot-convenient amnesia being played dead straight, but the film doesn’t know how to handle any kind of joke. It really isn’t that hard to be funny, or at the very least hiring someone who is. There’s a basic theme running through the film that Toretto’s bunch are more like a “family” than a bunch of friends. This is opposition to Shaw and his team (presented as the nega versions of our heroes, in a helpful scene where a character flat out observes it) who take a more clinical approach to the group and chop and change members without any kind of sentiment. The ultimate message being that because our lads and lasses love each other, they will triumph when all is said and done. The film subtly conveys this by repeating the word “family” about 20 goddamn times and having forced scenes of joviality and camaraderie. Look- I know this is for the plebs, but come on. It needs to try harder than that. Repeating the same word over and over again isn’t theming. It’s a Sesame Street skit.

Chris Morgan’s script is by far the film’s biggest failing. Checking out his IMDB page, I was surprised to see he was credited for the rather well-written Wanted. Turns out he had four (yes, fucking four) other writers helping him on that, so maybe that’s the answer. He needs professional help. The dialogue scenes and bits where the plot was apparently going on ended up being a tedious slog until the enjoyable pedal-to-the-metal stuff kicked off again. There’s no reason why it has to be that bad. It has to be said that I also barely gave a shit about any of the characters. Letty’s reappearance was just a thing that happened and everything that occurred after that was just as predictable as you’d expect. Just imagine an F&F film where you actually cared about the characters, which would in turn add some proper tension to the impressive setpieces. It’d be great right? The series has thankfully dropped most of the boring street racing stuff in lieu of big heists and the like. I just need it to go the extra mile and tighten up the writing considerably. If this is all there is, I can probably make peace with that, but the thing that this franchise taught me is that it’s never to late to buck up your ideas. Hopefully by the time F&F 7 rolls around, the script will have been overseen by someone who knows how to actually write and not just drool on the keyboard.

“Somebody do something! I’ve got a tank on my ass!”

I’ve read a lot of nasty reviews of this film, criticising its loose grip of concepts, reality and especially physics. I get the feeling these people are missing the point. I’m completely fine with insane leaps of logic if the film is fun enough and this one is, albeit fitfully. I’m intrigued to see where they go from here for two reasons, one, I’ll be interested to see how they get around the sad, untimely death of Paul Walker and two, the awesome credits sting which promises at least one golden reason why I should slap some money down for the next installment.

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