Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Fast & Furious 6

Film #321

THE PLOT

Agent Luke Hobbs enlists Dominic Toretto and his team to bring down former Special Ops soldier Owen Shaw, leader of a unit specializing in vehicular warfare.

Year 1, Day 325

BEFORE: I have never seen a Fast & Furious movie before today, but that won’t stop me from an advanced screening of the sixth installment. Not being familiar with the franchise, I’m not exactly sure what to expect going into the movie. All I know is I should be prepared for a bunch of car chases and explosions. Whether or not it’s entertaining or just plain mindlessness is yet to be seen.

AFTER: There is a time and a place for big-budget, action-packed, and mind-numbing films and Fast & Furious 6 is it. As a newcomer to the franchise I wasn’t familiar with the characters or their stories, but that doesn’t really matter. While you could probably glean more with familiarity, Fast & Furious 6 is a great film as-is because it does one thing and one thing only: amaze.

I wouldn’t have thought that cars crashing, engines revving, and guns blazing for two straight hours could retain my attention. Surely there’s some point where the action is just enough and you can’t process anymore. Not true here. In fact, it felt as if each subsequent action scene raised the bar and was even more exhilarating than the last all leading up to the final scene with a cache of vehicles ranging, quite wildly, in size. The reason I think this works in the film is that it’s based off a template. How original, I know, for a film to be some boilerplate, mass-produced thing. But the thing is, it doesn’t feel like some boring knock-off that we’ve seen a thousand times before. Fast & Furious 6 fills a specific niche and fills it extremely well. You have action, then a brief expositional exchange between characters, more action, rinse and repeat. It’s not wall-to-wall action nor is it the same with story. The action wouldn’t be good without some sort of a story, and the story - while not highly complex or thought provoking in any way - is still a story and provides purpose for all the action.

All this being said, and as much as I was enthralled with seeing pure chaos and destruction for two hours, I must take issue with the story. I understand that this isn’t the strong suit of the film, and it doesn’t need to be, but even some minor tweaks could have gone a long way. I’m not looking for this to be the next Citizen Kane (as the go-to film of choice, but for something more modern, how about Inception), but it can’t ignore fundamental problems. First, why did Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) need to go back to the U.S. to talk with the cartel leader Arturo Braga about Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). It didn’t seem to serve any purpose and the information Brian does gather is rendered moot in the next scene when Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) says he doesn’t care. And second, the big MacGuffin - a three ounce computer chip that can turn off an entire country’s power for a day - loses all importance at the end. The one thing holding this entire story together is this chip, and to just nonchalantly hand it off and really forget about it at the end is counterintuitive. Right now, there’s a lot of buildup as to what happens with this chip and then nothing. Just provide some sort of payoff and it won’t seem like it was a worthless thing to care about throughout the film.

Again, I have not seen any of the previous Fast & Furious films and a fan’s opinion might be wildly different from mine. What I know is that Fast & Furious 6 was a thrill ride from beginning to end and really surpassed my expectations of what a pure action film could be. The story is almost secondary here; the reason to watch is to be exhilarated by everything that happens on screen. But while this is a highly entertaining film that I recommend you see (and I will be going back to see the previous films now), it isn’t what I’d consider a great film because it doesn’t fully achieve that mind-numbing quality.

Fast & Furious 6 opens in theaters this Friday, May 24, 2013.

RATING: 4 out of 5