Grease-Monkey Melodrama: Fast & Furious 6

05/22/2013 4:00 AM |

Fast & Furious 6
Directed by Justin Lin

Twelve years and five sequels in, the Fast & Furious franchise has finally grown up. In Part Six, new dad Brian (Paul Walker) and new uncle Dom (Vin Diesel) are recruited by former foe Agent Hobbs (The Rock) to chase down the Londonian cyber-terrorist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who has enlisted Dom’s presumed-dead former flame Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). If they prevail, Dom, Brian and company will receive full pardons for the crimes perpetrated in Fast & Furious 1-5. This episode of the outlaw-loving series, with its uncharacteristically government-backed mission, adds family values and pro-torture patriotism to the foregoing installments’ core curriculum of objectifying women while sexualizing cars. It also gets baroque in its narrative intricacies—at least by car-chase movie standards.

With a convoy of nearly a dozen central characters from every previous installment, F&F6‘s many non-chase scenes fall somewhere between soap-opera sentimentalism and Victorian-novel complexity. Self-referential histrionics and shop-talk schmaltz abound. Former frenemies exchange slaps and a few punches, plus what pass for witticisms in this grease-monkey melodrama. Roman (Tyrese Gibson): “You’ve gotta get her a big rock, or you’d better be big somewhere else, if you know what I mean.” Han (Sung Kang): “So that’s why all your girlfriends wear so much bling.” But the movie’s overriding and oft-articulated message is that safeguarding country and family justifies any kind of violence.

And justify it does, after each admittedly gripping chase sequence, from London to the Spanish countryside. The vehicular cast, too, is practically Dickensian, the typical roster of American muscle cars, imported roadsters, and souped-up motorcycles joined by a supporting set of auction-bought vintage coupes, custom-built racecars, a tank, and one very large airplane. Director Lin keeps all the fast-moving parts staggered, with various subplots and tangents gliding off and then looping back to the main action like an expertly engineered freeway. Its expanding repertoire of reprehensible ideologies may be shameful, but for a blockbuster vehicle designed to extract premium action from every gallon, F&F6 is far more fuel-efficient than any of the guzzlers it speeds toward chassis-crunching crashes.

Opens May 24