Monday, 3 June 2013


Universal Pictures

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With more and more Hollywood studio fare aimed at adolescent males, the success of the latest Fast and Furious film, the sixth in the franchise, should come as no surprise: an almost $100 million opening weekend in the U.S., and more than $300m total worldwide in its first week of release. Boys and their toys, the need for speed, lowest common denominator etc, etc.

What is somewhat of a surprise, particularly to this casual observer (I'd only seen two - #3 and #5 - of the F&F films prior to #6), is how much fun can be had with these films regardless of your age, gender or IQ. Hell, even a non-driver such as myself (I don't even know how to start a car) can get swept along by the motoring mayhem. Park your brain in neutral, leave all logic (along with your critical faculties) at the door, and buckle up for two hours of rev head action.

That's not to say that Fast and Furious 6 is above criticism, or that it's even a good film. But it's certainly enjoyable in the moment, and it gives its audience and fans exactly what they want. Besides, as the sixth film in a franchise why (other than it being your job) would you even be in the audience if you weren't a fan?

After their successful heist in Brazil (in #5), which netted them $100m in loot, the gang have scattered around the globe to live in well-funded retirement. Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) have become parents, and Dom (Vin Diesel) an uncle but this picture perfect family photo is upset when it is revealed that Dom's long-thought dead wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is alive. (Letty was apparently killed while undercover in #2.)

She's working as part of a freelance terrorist group headed by Shaw (Luke Evans), who've recently stolen nuclear weapons, or codes or something (I'm not sure, and I'm not sure it matters), and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the US Federal agent who all but nailed our vehicular vigilantes in Brazil, wants Dom and his team (including Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gidot and Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) to help bring them down in exchange for full pardons.

Not surprisingly, that's pretty much it for plot. The rest of the film is taken up with a series of action set pieces, culminating with an army tank on a Spanish freeway and climaxing on a military runway as even an aeroplane gets a guernsey in this transportation throw down which, as O.T.T. as it is, doesn't even come close to the giddy-inducing silliness of the big-ass safe being dragged around the streets of Rio in film #5 (although a 'leap of faith' at the end of the tank sequence comes awfully close).

Director Justin Lin, who has been in the driver's seat since film #3, Tokyo Drift (hardcore fans will be thrilled with a closing credits sequence which has a teaser for #7, and which they know takes place after the events of #3(?)), seems to know exactly what his audience wants, and more importantly, how to deliver it: fast and furious is a philosophy as well as a brand.

Is Fast and Furious 6 art? No. Is it ambitious or original? No. Is it awful? Surprisingly, no. And as we approach the midway point of 2013, I can say with certainty that it's not even close to being one of the worst films of the year. And as the Fast and Furious franchise appears to have the legs -- or in this case, wheels -- to keep on going, critics and non-fans would be best advised to either get on board or get the hell off the road.

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