Movie Review: “Fast & Furious 6″

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Fast 6 America’s most explosive and ridiculous film franchise is back with the release of the sixth “Fast and the Furious” movie. It’s a notch below the last film, the glorious “Fast Five,” but still highly enjoyable.

The film kicks off with a montage sequence that takes us through the history of the series and demonstrates clearly that Paul Walker’s haircut and general appearance have changed dramatically over the years while Vin Diesel still looks exactly the same. And I’m still not entirely clear on what the title of the movie is- IMDB says “Fast & Furious 6,” all the promotional materials are split between “Fast Six” and “Fast 6,” while the opening credits call it “Furious 6.”

Around the time that director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan took over the franchise, it was apparently decided that ridiculousness and implausibility were not an issue, and that impossible developments- from stunts that blatantly defy physics to characters abruptly returning from the dead- were no longer any object. That was a good decision.

When we last left Diesel and Walker and the rest of the crew, they’d stolen a miniaturized version of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin from a Brazilian drug kingpin- after dragging it through the streets of Rio during a 20-minute chase scene- and had each walked away with millions.

Early on in “Fast 6,” their brief retirement is interrupted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s U.S. federal agent, who needs their help taking down a rival gang of London-based thieves (led by Like Evans) who also, it turns out, carry out their crimes with the use of souped-up fast cars. The gang’s other motivation is an opportunity to rescue Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), former crew member and lover of Diesel, who “died” two movies ago.

From there the film mostly follows the formula of the rest of the series: Elaborate, creatively-staged set-pieces involving car chases, intercut occasionally with ludicrous expository dialogue and plot developments that rarely if ever pass the laugh test.

There are a couple of pretty dynamite action sequences, including a long, multi-vehicle battle on a highway, and then the closing scene, involving many cars and a plane on a runway that must be 200 miles long. There’s also an old-fashioned street race, which serves to remind us that, once upon a time, this series was about drag-racing. It’s hard not to admire the artistry and blocking of these scenes, although there is a bit more shaky-cam this time than I’d prefer to see.

The plot, though? Come on. Something about a “component,” which the film barely bothers explaining further.

Johnson’s playing a U.S. law enforcement officer who, even in the age of the sequester, apparently has access to an unlimited budget for travel, equipment, weapons and of course high-end cars. He also, for some reason, has the power to grant pardons, even for a gang that’s committed dozens of crimes all over the world for ten years. And don’t even get me started on the sequence in which Walker, an internationally wanted criminal, sneaks back into the United States, somehow gets himself into a prison, beats up a guy, and then gets on the plane back to London without any incident.

In one scene Johnson goes into an interrogation room and immediately body-slams the suspect, which is a whole other level of “enhanced interrogations.”  In fact, I noticed a whole lot of old-school pro wrestling moves in the fight scenes, and not just those involving the Rock. I think I spotted the Hart Foundation’s old Hart Attack maneuver at one point, in the best cinematic moment of its kind since Tom Cruise executed Dwayne Johnson’s old move, the Rock Bottom, on Dougray Scott in “Mission: Impossible 2.”

Speaking of wrestling, if Vince McMahon were smart he’d pull a “No Holds Barred” and have The Rock and Vin Diesel fight in the main event of the next Wrestlemania. On the undercard, we could have a rematch of Michelle Rodridguez against Gina Carano, the MMA fighter-turned-“Haywire” star who has memorable fights with Letty on two different occasions. For comic relief, it’s hard to beat the duo of Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson.

And whatever you do, don’t leave the theater early- there’s a post-script during the credits that’s absolutely killer- better than anything the Marvel films ever attempted.

There will be action movies this summer in which there’s violence, things go fast, things blow up, and then they blow up again, probably from a different angle. Those movies may be good or bad, but chances are they won’t be nearly as unabashedly fun as “Fast, Furious and 6,” or whatever it’s officially called.

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