Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fast & Furious 6 - The Strangely Refreshing Taste of Honest Stupidity

I just want to start by saying, there's a certain bizarre humor that comes with writing this review.

Mostly in that, in trying to sum up my thoughts on the film, I've had to stop and rewrite my statements many times over.  Not because it's a particularly difficult film to discuss - Quite the opposite, really.  It's more the fact that, because of this, it makes trying to write much into the film...well...to use the quaint vernacular, an absolute bitch to pull off. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

As I said in the last entry, and as the title to this one confirms, this is the second of the two offerings from the summer blockbuster season recently got to seeing.  A film that held the #1 at the box office for the last couple of weeks, only finally being dethroned two weeks back with the surprise success of The Purge.

That's right.  After taking on the likes of Heaven's Gate and Caligula, I'm having a hard time finding things to say about Fast & Furious 6.

I should also start by saying my only prior encounter with this series was seeing the first movie in high school - an experience I didn't even remember until after this movie.  Well, that and the American Dad episode involving Steve and his friends finding a lost script for the seventh movie (a joke which, amusingly, was more accurate than I'd initially expected.)  At the time, we were looking for something to see and were surprised to see the relatively positive reviews on this one.  Flash forward 90 minutes or so and...well...I'll admit it.  I actually wound up having a lot more fun with this movie than I expected.

The story is...well...let's put it this way, they recap what you need to know of the first five in the opening titles.  It's not like this is a complicated crime saga.  Vin Diesel and Paul Walker steal cars, Walker used to be a cop, there's a lot of over the top car stunts, and somewhere along the way, Dwayne Johnson decided to get back into the action movie scene, and everyone who shook their heads in absolute disbelief over his work on family films lets out a sigh of relief.  (Though I'm still waiting for him to make a return to comedy proper.)

Well, two of them are welcome returns.  Paul...well, you're OK.  Just keep doing what you're doing, but realize the other two are the ones everyone will remember.

Also, somewhere along the way (Editor's note: Around the 4th film), normal GTA wasn't good enough for the series and Diesel, Walker, and their band of merry thieves started taking on varying degrees of bigger and badder criminals.

Yeah, this isn't something you go to for story or character.  That rule continues into this movie, involving a British crime lord who's stolen parts for an EMP weapon, and who is joined by a character previously believed dead and has amnesia. I don't know why I've gone this far into explaining this.  I'm not even really going to say much for it from here on out anyway.

The thing that makes this series work, and probably the reason I wound up walking away from this one entertained, is the fact that it's pretty honest about what it is.  There's no half-heated attempts to work in some social commentary or be meta about the genre.  The films simply are as they are.  Popcorn is really the perfect term here, both as far as a piece of theater fluff, and something that's pretty light and airy, and probably not necessarily good for you...but damn if it isn't tasty when it's made well.

Luckily, this was fairly made well.  At least, as far as the strengths they knew to play to on this one.

The first of these being, for what little characterization these films can be said to have, the cast still have some pretty strong chemistry.  I think this is a big part of what makes the film feel fun - you can tell these people are all having a good time making this movie, and it rubs off some on the audience in the process.  While I normally joke about the fact these movies are basically the only thing Vin Diesel gets to do anymore (though they seem to be trying to bring back Riddick once again) the way he plays the role after this much time, it feels less like a dig, since you can see he doesn't seem to mind the fact he's still at it.  In fact, he's arguably having some of the most fun of the cast.

"Yeah, so maybe I did make Tooth Fairy and The Game Plan...but in all fairness, you did The Pacifier and The Chronicles of Riddick.  The way I see it, we both made mistakes here..."

The other, and the much more prominent, as you may guess, is the action.  They've been at these films for six installments now, so it's safe to say they've worked out what works and what doesn't now.  To their credit, they also have avoided the other pitfall here of simply contenting themselves with doing more of the same - part of what further sold this was the fact that these movies have been escalating beyond simple car chases - so much so that this movie includes sequences involving a tank and a climax involving using cars to take down an airplane.  These are the kinds of things that make me want to be a fly on the wall during some of the storyboarding sessions just to watch these people try and pull some of these ideas out of the air.  It's that kind of bizarre sense of creativity that just dances on the line the comic Calvin & Hobbes once coined best as "This is so cool!"/"This is so stupid!"

Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen

and exhibit B.  Yes, I reiterate - they have car thieves take on a tank.

In a lot of ways, I think that's part of why I'd initially found this so daunting to write on at first.  Cause, yeah, to be perfectly honest, in a lot of ways, it is a pretty stupid movie.  At the same time though, it's a movie that's very much at home in that stupidity.  It knows what it does well, and it does it to the best of its ability.  I can't even say it necessarily feels like it revels in it so much as it gives that stupidity the full 110%...and dammit, it wins me over for that.  I won't say this is one of the best films of the year, unless I go into a coma within the next few days and wake up some time in 2014 (if this happens, I just want to state in advance, anyone who tries to drop spoilers on me for anything WILL get cut!)  For what it was as a summer appetizer though...it got me where I was going nicely.  I'm surprised to say, I can actually see why this held its top spot as long as it did.  For this time of year, it's a quick, light piece of escapism that looks nice, moves fast, and most importantly, is infectious in its enjoyment of the ride.

...wow.  This may be my most non-review review yet...and somehow, I feel strangely at peace with that.

Damn.  What has this movie done to me?

Anyway, finally announcing the project next entry.

Also, one last note for the road - don't be one of those guys that leaves as soon as the credits roll on this one.  You don't have to stay the full time, but at least stick around for a bit, they squeeze in one last bit of cheeze and a hint of a sequel that, personally, I found pretty damn entertaining.

Till next time!

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