Until very recently, I was never a big fan of the Fast & Furious movies. The first movie was essentially a car-centric remake of Point Break with the late Paul Walker in the Keanu Reeves role and Vin Diesel playing the Patrick Swayze part.
I think I saw one other Fast & Furious film from that point on, 2 Fast 2 Furious (didn’t think all that much of it) and pretty much skipped the others until catching Fast & Furious 5, the film that obviously preceded this one.
F&F 5 proved highly entertaining even if not pushing the limits of the believable. The interactions between the characters and the element of “the heist” proved an interesting mix and I found the film very entertaining. When Fast & Furious 6 came out last summer, I was eager to see it but, as with many films I hope to see, would have to wait for the video release. In the meantime, the film did gangbusters at the box office and appeared to further solidify the series as a great action/adventure saga.
Would I find this sixth film as entertaining as the fifth?
Right off the bat, I know I’m swimming against the tide here (Rotten Tomatoes has the film scoring a genuinely impressive 70% positive among critics and an even more impressive -if not outright stunning– 84% positive among audiences), but F&F 6 left me cold.
I think a big part of the reason is because I enjoyed the fifth film as much as I did and was hoping the people working on this one would give us another pretty well written bit of entertainment. In this case, though, the story is super sloppy with only one admittedly really creative element: The F&F group goes up against their dopplegangers, another group of racing hellions who are stealing high tech military equipment.
Unfortunately, that element is mentioned and ultimately never really dealt with to any great degree. Like the heroes, the villain(s) of the piece are woefully underwritten, including one that is meant as a “surprise” yet whose revelation of such (I don’t want to get into spoilers) truly comes out of left field and makes not a lick of sense after what’s come before. Anyway, the villains “look” like the F&F group and do F&F type crimes but that’s about as far as the similarities go. Their target is a component of something that should have been called the “MacGuffin“, the last piece of a greater computer whole that does something really, really bad. Truly, I can’t even recall what the heck the bad thing was.
The gang is brought back together by Federal Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson looking really scary pumped up…seriously, I’m worried about him. Being that muscular can’t be good for you, can it?) to take on this gang of mysterious and super-efficient thieves with one wrinkle already alluded to in the previous movie: The bad guys somehow have the character of Lefty (Michelle Rodriguez) in their group. This is significant as Lefty, Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) girlfriend, was thought dead.
The mission, thus, has two goals: Stop the bad guys before they get the last component to their MacGuffin and get Lefty back to the fold.
What follows, naturally, is plenty of gravity defying stunts and action. But the action sequences this time around veer into the truly absurd. At one point Hobbs jumps out of a very fast moving car onto another that is at least two stories below him. Hobbs does this successfully without so much as suffering one broken bone.
Later in the film, Toretto one-ups Hobbs by slamming his car against a bridge railing, flying at least a zillion feet through the air, catching someone else flying through the air in the other direction and smashing against a car which apparently amounts to falling into a bundle of extra-fluffy pillows. The person Toretto saves asks him afterwards something to the effect of “How did you know that car would be there to break our fall”?
Imagine that…in this alternate F&F universe a metal and glass car can actually break your fall!
And don’t even get me started about the Runway-That-Never-Ends.
Some time ago a Hollywood figure (sadly, I don’t remember who) said that when making an action film which features considerable stunt work, one should go about 30% over what can be done in “real life”. In other words, your stunts should amaze the audience yet make them think they could/might happen in real life. With F&F 6, the “unbelievable” factor was pushed to 500% (Or, in Spinal Tap lingo, waaaay past 11) and that proved tough for me to swallow.
In the end, I found F&F 6 a disappointment because a) the script simply wasn’t as engaging as the fifth movie’s and b) the overblown stunts proved too difficult to swallow.
There was, of course, one other element that may well have affected the overall experience, and that was the presence of Paul Walker.
As everyone who is a fan of the films knows by now, Mr. Walker died in a tragic car accident recently (He was on break from filming this movie’s sequel, Fast & Furious 7). I suspect seeing F&F 6 in theaters and before Mr. Walker’s death is probably a very different experience from seeing it after, which is of course how I saw it.
Those “unbelievable” stunts that bothered me so may well have been even more unbelievable when in the back of my mind I knew what happened to Mr. Walker. Perhaps if I had seen the film before his tragic accident, my negative reaction might have been lessened.
We’ll never know.
But as it stands, F&F 6 proved a disappointment and, despite glowing reviews from others, I cannot recommend this film. A pass.