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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Fast and Furious 6

Fast & Furious 6 (Two Stars)
U..S.: Justin Lin, 2013

If you’re looking for a slam-bang movie full of spectacular car-chases and mind-bending action, Fast & Furious 6 — the sixth installment in the tire-burning, dumfounding Fast & Furious series — is obviously your pedal-to-the-metal hot ticket. It‘s the kind of movie where the only logical (or illogical) response from long-time fans may be either ‘”Wowie,“ ‘yowie“ or “zowie.”  But, if you’re looking for a movie that makes a lick of sense, or has a line of dialogue worth saying, or a  character or situation that isn’t either a howling cliché or a howling absurdity (Take your pick) you’ve come to the wrong pit stop.

I guess the only way to judge this crash-a-thon is to measure your own tolerance for high octane idiocy, mitigated by high franchise savvy.. Me, I’m willing to admit that this show is, on some levels, a high tech marvel and a commercial coup. But mostly I found Fast & Furious 6 about as entertaining as a migraine headache, followed by a traffic accident, followed by an hour of commercials. Others may disagree.

This movie begins where Fast Five (probably the best of the series) left off: with the whole Fast and Furious gang — led by long-time muscle-crazy bromance buddies Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) — indulging in the spoils of the multi-million dollar payoff of their last car-chase/heist/bad-guy-bashing race/caper in Rio. Dom is in the Canary Islands, with his lady Elena (Elsa Pataki); Brian, ready for fatherhood, has settled down with Dom‘s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). The others, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Giselle (Gal Gadot), and bad-luck Han (Sung Kang), are all hanging out somewhere, waiting to sign their contracts.

Suddenly, up pops that ubiquitous Rock of Rocks, Dwayne Johnson, as their former FBI nemesis Luke Hobbs, who chased them all around Fast Five, learned what great guys and drivers they were, and now wants to hire Dom, Brian and the whole team to track down and terminate international terrorist/mercenary/all-around creepy guy Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who has been destroying whatever was left of Russia after the Die Hard crew left, and is now imminently in danger of obtaining the last crucial thingum-abob part of  a weapon of mass destruction that will enable him to destroy or rule the world. (I forget which.)

Dom and Brian, one time Southern California street kids and street racers who’ve struck it rich and achieved early retirement, aren’t anxious to sign aboard. But Hobbs has some bait: He‘s discovered that Shaw’s deadly lieutenant may actually be Dom‘s old girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), missing and presumed dead, and apparently suffering from an amnesia that has made her forget everything that happened in the other movies. (Sometimes I envy her.)

So, we’re off. I‘m not sure why the perfidious Shaw needs a crack car crew to further his nefarious conspiracies of world conquest, or how he ended up with a multi–ton tank on a mountain road and later, a Russia cargo plane, dragging along the Dom Gang cars on an apparently endless runway — or why the big car chase in London’s crowded streets goes on (as usual) with no interference, or even any notice it seems, by the traffic police — those cops who seem to go into hibernation during any of these frequently staged movie scenes.

But, as admirers of movies like Fast 6 constantly remind us, pityingly, audiences don’t go to this kind of  movie for logic, or sense, or anything much but Yowie-Powie -Zowie. There’s plenty of that including the one scene I liked, the one in which Dom and Letty leap off their respective speeding vehicles, over a huge drop and meet in midair. If you’re going to be senseless, you should at least get some laughs out of it. And, as for Dom and Letty, they at least mix things up a bit by giving us some Fast and Furious love scenes.  He stares at her; she shoots him.

Justin Lin (who once made the affecting Asian-American high school movie Better Luck Tomorrow (2003)  has done the four last Fasts, and he’s brought a multi-culturalism and a sometimes light-hearted zest to the diretion. Lin showed good judgment in reemphasizing the chase scenes, in bringing back (0r agreeing to being back) Dom, Letty and some others, and in recruiting the new talent, including Johnson. If you’re going to run a franchise where the writing (mostly by Chris Morgan) seems so unimportant , it might as well  be a successful franchise.

But what can you say about a movie when even its admirers admit it’s stupid? Every silly thing that happens in Fast 6 — and there’s a lot of them —  tends to be justified with the same argyuments: “That’s what the audience wants.” And “That’s what makes money.“ Really? I suspect that the public might want better movies, and go to them, if there were more of a choice. And if more money was spent on selling the good ones. .

Have we gone past the era of Guilty Pleasures into the era of Guilty Dumb Turn-Ons? There are great action movies, and even great car-chase movies. (I’m sort of fond of Gone in 60 Seconds.)  But Fast 6 isn’t a great action movie, and some of the action is even a little sloppy. I didn’t have as bad a time at Fast 6 as my migraine headache crack suggests. But, as Pauline Kael once said about a different era,  I wouldn’t be interested much in movies, if this is all they were. And, after a few more years (and franchises) like this, this is what they all might be.

We may run out of fossil fuel before we run out of car chase movie clichés. In the meantime, it wouldn‘t have killed anybody to put a few good lines into this movie, and audiences might even have liked it. Fastly, if not furiously.


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One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: Fast and Furious 6”

  1. Terry D says:

    Moscow’s crowded streets? With Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Piccadilly Circus in full view?

    That must be some migraine headache.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon