Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fast & Furious 6

You've got to give the franchise credit.

It knows exactly what it is.

It does now, anyway. It's easy to forget, the first movie had pretensions of actual quality, however ridiculous those pretensions were. And it's easy to forget the second and third movies didn't even feature series cornerstone Dominic Toretto, played by the inimitable Vin Diesel.

It was the fourth movie which jettisoned the word "and" in favor of the ampersand and, more importantly, returned Vin to his permanent place at the center of the Furious-verse.

And now the franchise is a printing press.

I don't remember which character is jumping off a tank onto a car in that picture, but lots of people do lots of jumping between vehicles. At one point Vin crashes his car into a guard rail, KNOWING the impact will eject him through the windshield so he can catch a falling Michelle Rodriguez and soft-land with her on the hood of another car.

I don't have a picture of it, but I know it happened.

And oh yeah! Michelle Rodriguez is back as Vin's tough-as-nails love interest, Letty. The fact that she was killed off a couple movies ago doesn't matter. She's back with amnesia and working for the bad guy.

So now we're homing in on the formula of this profitable franchise. It's a soap opera -- not even a melodrama, a full-blown soap opera; I fully expect the next installment to introduce Vin's evil twin brother -- played out with car chases, fist fights and gun battles.

And testosterone. Lots and lots of testosterone.

Since everyone knows the tone and style of a Fast & Furious movie, everyone's okay with plot absurdities and a general suspension of the laws of physics.

But beyond the reliably entertaining and often unintentionally comedic action sequences, there are two scenes in the movie that milk genuine dramatic tension out of fun situations. Both occur near the middle of the movie.

The first occurs after a drag race between Vin and his now-evil love, Michelle Rodriguez. Vin wins the race, which earns him a roadside chat with the woman he's been mourning the last few years. Vin applies the ol' Vin charm, Rodriguez applies her standard tough talk, and the scene somehow does the impossible: it introduces subtext into the dialogue. That never happens in Fast & Furious movies. Good job, guys.

The next scene occurs directly thereafter, when the bad guy -- an evil Brit named Shaw -- shows up and offers Vin the chance to back away from their coming confrontation, no questions asked.

It's a fun macho showdown that veers into the realm of the philosophical, as they discuss their differing worldviews in semi-polite terms. That also never happens in a Fast & Furious movie.

There's also The Rock, an addition to the franchise from last movie, and mixed martial arts star Gina Carano, a new and welcome member of the club. She dies at the end of this one -- whoops, spoiler alert -- after it is revealed that she is actually working for Shaw -- whoops, another spoiler alert -- but it's no biggie.

If the producers want her back in the next one, I'm sure they'll think of something.

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