10 June 2013

Flash Review: [Fast &] Furious 6

I often write long reviews (and stories, but that’s another issue). To test my brevity skills—and to produce more articles for films and books I might not otherwise cover—I’m inaugurating a series of “Flash Reviews” which will be exactly five hundred words long (MS Word count), not including the title and credits. Enjoy responsibly. I’ll still be long-winded elsewhere.

Furious 6 (2013)
Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Sung Kang, Luke Evans, Gina Carano.

First thought: This is the second case within a month where a film’s on-screen title mismatches the one used on promotional material. First was Iron Man Three, sold as Iron Man 3. Now Furious 6, sold as Fast & Furious 6. This series has taken pride in irregular naming conventions in order to destroy any chance a collector has of getting them to line up on a shelf. So why did marketing shy away from Furious 6? It’s got good synergy with the previous film, Fast Five, while maintaining the inconsistent titles, including switching to an Arabic numeral. To keep this going, the next film should be titled And VII.

Second (2nd, IInd) thought: Where did they find a human being larger than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Johnson looks like a CGI creation for Wreck-It-Ralph, but this Danish fellow Kim Kold who plays the evil version of Johnson’s character on the Supervillain Team is the biggest chunk of human flesh and bone I’ve seen.

Third thought: How did a franchise based on the unassuming beginning of a Point Break imitation snuck into the summer season of 2001 turn into such a juggernaut that the sixth film in the series is the second best, after Fast Five?

The secret behind the success must be director Justin Lin, now on his fourth consecutive “Furious” film. He’s invested a bunch of meat headed tough-guy action clichés with fun characters whose familial bond gives heft to the increasingly outrageous action. At this point, Lin can give us set-pieces of a cargo plane hurtling down a runway so long it must be a Möbius strip and Vin Diesel pulling a stunt identical to Superman making a mid-air rescue and still keep the movie on the rails. You laugh and cheer at the same time at the craziness, but then come back down to the unity of the gang that includes Diesel, Paul Walker (whose “average guy-ness” is harder to do than it appears), Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, and the effortless comedy duo of Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges. Dwayne Johnson as DSS agent Hobbs is now an indispensible member of the set-up. And Gina Carano fights real good.

The story is a team vs. team adventure, The Justice League vs. The Legion of Doom—and serves up the fun that implies. It also seems like the ideal place for the series to conclude—except a stinger during the credits indicates that part seven is inevitable (and unfortunately won’t have Justin Lin at the helm). As long as it’s half the good time of Fast Five and Furious 6, it’ll be worth it.

I’m not a hardcore Fast & Furious franchise fan; I’ve never seen any installment more than once. Yet I recall enjoying them… even 2 Fast 2 Furious. After the ginormous high of Furious 6 and the way it ties together strands going back to Tokyo Drift, I’ve got the urge to re-watch the whole series from the start and bring you the results.