“Furious 6” is a faster, bigger adventure

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Universal Pictures image shows Gina Carano, left, and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from Fast & Furious 6. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Giles Keyte)

I could be the Serious Movie Guy and tell you that Fast & Furious 6 has some awful dialogue, often indifferent acting, a ridiculous plot and action sequences so enormous and explosive that it’s astounding when characters walk away from them with so little damage.

But even as I say that, the Fast & Furious fan inside me replies: Wait until you see the tank chase. And the airplane-and-cars stunt, And the teaser for the seventh movie. And all that happens in a movie that takes itself far less seriously than some of the previous offerings in the series.

This isn’t just a popcorn movie. This is a popcorn-with-tons-of-fake-butter-and-flavored-salt movie, with a side of Sugar Babies. It’s as close to pure escapism as you are likely to get this summer.

As the title indicates, this is the sixth film in the decade-old series that has also included The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious and Fast Five. The first movie made stars of Vin Diesel (as criminal Dom Toretto) and Paul Walker (as lawman and later crook Brian O’Conner), but by the third movie — which focused on a new character — the franchise looked dead.

Then Diesel and Walker took center stage again, director Justin Lin (at the helm of every movie since the third) presented a full nothing’s-too-crazy esthetic, and the multiethnic, international acting ensemble became a global phenomenon. Fast Five, the most recent previous movie, made more than $600 million worldwide — about twice as much as the fifth installment in the Die Hard movie series.

Fast Five also momentarily appeared to offer a close to the series; Dom, Brian and their crew had stolen $100 million from a Brazilian drug lord and settled down to peaceful lives in no-extradition locations. But the teaser at the end of the fifth film showed that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), killed in the fourth film, was actually alive, setting the stage for 6.

In Fast & Furious 6, a team of fast-car-driving crooks are staging jobs in Europe. Federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who chased the gang in Fast Five, concludes that the only way to catch this group is to get Dom and his team to help out — and the way to get Dom is to tell him about Letty.

Soon enough Dom and Brian are reunited with their team, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), joining forces with Hobbs and his new associate, Riley (Gina Carano). They begin the hunt for criminal mastermind Shaw (Luke Evans) and his team (which is a mirror image of Dom’s) — a task that also brings them into contact with Letty. And into contact with a lot of cars, fists, gunfire and things blowing up.

Much as Diesel in particular tries to bring some gravitas to the proceedings, it’s a movie that is at its weakest when it slows down long enough for the characters to talk seriously. It is far more entertaining during the deliberately humorous moments, most of which are courtesy of Gibson, or when it is offering a long car chase or other action followed soon enough by an even bigger burst of action. (That said, some of the best moments are straight-up fistfights; Carano, a former MMA star, throws down very well.)

The movie not only knows what its fans want, but also that they bring a long relationship to these movies and their characters; while 6 often refers back to the fourth and fifth films, it includes other nods back to the very beginning of the series. It has allowed its characters some growth and change — Brian and his true love, Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) — become parents at the beginning of 6 but not so much that they won’t buckle up one more time.

Even if 6 ends with most of the characters happy, when I saw the movie, the teaser for the seventh movie brought cheers from an audience eager for more adventures.

That it all makes no sense is beside the point. It’s just plain fun — big, loud, pointless, eye-popping fun. Bring on the popcorn.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio,com/blogs/heldenfiles.

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