Surely, we’re kidding here. How on earth could anyone take “Fast & Furious 6” seriously?
Well, OK, let’s table the word “seriously” for a couple of minutes. It’s admittedly a wee bit overstated. But here’s how, anyway, to think well of “F&F6.” Let me count the ways.
1. Summer movie vacuity comes in different shapes, sizes and flavors. There’s nothing outsized or misshapen or sour or overseasoned about this thing. It’s as lunkheaded as it wants to be and as sentimental as it has to be, only to lighten up and be as jokey as it helps to be to get from point A to point B.
It’s a little too long, I’ll grant you, but in its automotive and machine-tooled mayhem, it’s happy numbskulled stuff for the summer season.
2. If you’ve ever thrilled to the music of the internal combustion engine – the glissandi of engines throttling up and down, the deafening percussion blast of a roaring machine tuned to do maximum work – you have to enjoy the bejabbers out of the newest movie about a ragtag bunch that started out as funky street racers and now wanders the world consuming its more expensive goods and, when not doing that, doing good.
They’re mercenaries with heart.
Here’s a movie that travels from the Canary Islands to Moscow, to Macao, to London, to Rio, to Spain, to prison in California and back to London. No passport is necessary.
Wherever Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Ludacris and buddies are is home.
3. When Diesel – as the group’s leader Toretto – wants to tell us in the audience how much horsepower a hyped-up BMW has, he says it has “568 ponies.”
The action in this movie has 568 ponies at least.
4. In this “Fast & Furious” movie, Tyrese Gibson – the impossibly handsome magazine model – is used for comic relief all the way through. Forget how he looks. He’s the doofus with the least competence and the funniest lines. None are as funny as the idea of using one of the handsomest guys in the cast as the movie’s idiot.
5. Dwayne Johnson plays the usual mountain-sized government agent who gets the gang together again to reunite with their old pal Letty. She’s played by Michelle Rodriguez who is, by conservative estimate, the toughest chick ever to throw a fist or a leg in anger on camera.
In our plot, she was pressed into service before the movie began by ex-Fed Paul Walker, lost her memory when everyone thought she was dead and is now working for a bad guy (Luke Evans) who is so bad, everyone says, you can’t even get near him unless he wants you to.
Johnson, as we all know, is this year’s “hardest working man in show business” by a country mile. Not only has he appeared in Buffalo with the WWE and is now on his fourth seasonal movie, he’s about to be on TV in a reality show called “The Hero.” If he weren’t so mountainously likable, he’d have been voted off the island long ago.
6. Director Justin Lin films and edits his action scenes with complete precision. Unlike Michael Bay’s idiot, deafening “Transformers” movies, in Lin’s “Fast & Furious” babies, you always know in action scenes who’s doing what to whom and which car was involved. You may not believe two-thirds of what the cars do in this movie – not to mention what the stuntmen do, including leaping from a plane taking off into a moving convertible – but you’re never unclear about what they’re doing. You have no idea how rare that is in summer action hoo-ha.
7. When Toretto and his bunch are behind the wheels of some vehicles, no other vehicle need apply for long-lasting supremacy. And in this movie, that includes a tank that flattens ordinary civilian vehicles like toys and a cargo plane the size of Schenectady that threatens to lift off into the wild blue with four well-populated cars dangling beneath it.
Diesel and his bunch aren’t just mercenaries with heart, they’re driving supermen.
8. When Diesel and an amnesiac Rodriguez have their big, quasi-loving reunion together after a London street race, he explains the depth of their spiritual communion.
“Show me how you drive,” he says, “and I’ll show you who you are.”
So what, I say, if she can’t even remember who she is and how she knows this muscle-bound gearhead who’s acting like a former lover (which, we all know, he is). This is clearly a relationship with torque.
Stop it anywhere. And for any reason. And it’s still ready to roar off and GO.
9. Luke Evans, as mega-villain Shaw, considers everyone he works with dispensable. As a consequence, there are a lot of dispensable villains in this movie.
Diesel considers all his gearhead pals to be family. There’s a loss here in the family, but don’t worry.
When “Fast & Furious 7” rolls around, there’s no guarantee some razzle-dazzle didn’t happen that kept our victim alive. It’s a movie, you know?
And even if it’s a loss, it’s not a major one.
Director Lin says he’s moving on to other motors, other stunts and other explorations of Chekhovian subtlety. But the basic on-screen bunch is intact, always ready to roll, always ready to rumble.
I’m telling you. This is a movie series, too, that’s got torque.
FAST & FURIOUS 6
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Jordana Brewster
Director: Justin Lin
Running time: 130 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for profanity, intense sequences of violence, some sexuality and constant loud action.
The Lowdown: The funky former street-racers are now international mercenaries and big spenders out to rescue one of their own from hanging out with the wrong bad guys.