Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 2:21 pm 
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PAUL WALKER AND VIN DIESEL IN FAST & FURIOUS 6

Just as fast, only rich now

Six iterations of the high speed car series Fast & Furious and it still doesn't seem tired at all. Its appeal seems to be its soulful machismo, and the way however spectacular the caper, these are just guys who love cars and their babes. And it's a rainbow coalition of sorts, with a blue-eyed blond guy, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), a sort of Latino guy, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a jokey but tech-brilliant black guy, Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges), and an Asian guy, Han (Sung Kang - he has the best guy hair since Paul cut his). They're rich from their Brazilian heist in the last episode, Fast Five, but must live off shore because they've broken a few laws, you know? Brian has a kid now, a boy naturally -- he doesn't even walk yet and he and Toretto are waving hot looking toy cars at him.

Then there's straight arrow ally Hobbs (the ultra-ripped Dwayne Johnson), some kind of fancy cop who's not averse to turning a trick or two, as it were, when circumstances require it. The films contain all sorts of outrageous action punctuated with comedy and wisdom. What's not to like? I think maybe Fast Five had some sequences in it -- the train car theft and the Brazilian bank break-in -- that are barely matched this time, but there is a lot of action, car crashes like you wouldn't believe, and girl fist fights that rival the guys'. These movies have never been as rich and complex as something like Olivier Megaton's Colombiana, but they're got . . . those guys, and those babes, and the pace never lags and focus never wanders.

Number one babe this time is Toretto's ex-girlfriend Letty, who becomes the focus of the story. Hobbs approaches Toretto with a photo showing she is alive, after all, and enlists his aid in tracking down a new bad guy in London called Shaw (Luke Evans). Turns out Letty lost her memory and Shaw has adopted her as his own. Toretto enlists the rest of the "family" to find Shaw and get Letty back. The deal is if they get Shaw they get full amnesty too. As Letty, Michelle Rodriguez has a natural sullen quality that draws our attention. Can Toretto make her remember? I'll leave you to figure that out. Amnesty will allow the next movie to have scenes shot back on home turf. But a quick final sequence shows the "family" may be joining Han next time, once more, in Tokyo -- a hell of a neat place to stage a nighttime car race, with all those skyscrapers and pretty neon lights. This is, after all, a series about beauty, pecs, biceps, cheekbones, girls' legs and butts, the gleam and dashing lines of special edition cars. The roar of their engines is these movies' special music, as is the triple-espresso edge of Vin Diesel's bass voice which he effortlessly belts out, even sotto-voce, a sledge hammer gently tapping at our eager waiting ears. It matters not the words he speaks, only the timing and the conviction, which never falter. They say Paul Walker can't act. But he smiles really nice, and when he says his lines, like "Uh, let's go!" he always sounds natural and at home. This is a crew that has developed a rhythm.

Shaw is a really nasty dude, with a total, well almost total, lack of affect; he couldn't care less if one of his henchmen gets killed, but he admits Letty is sorta special to him in a way. But as a villain, he's totally one of the F&F-type guys. He may be a mega-rich super-crook with a taste for world domination, but he drives the marauding tank, he does the hand-to-hand battling of cops and Toretto's pals. He does his own stunts, as it were. He isn't one of those effete James Bond type bad guys. It's only the London security police, the people who man those cameras so ubiquitous that, as Tej vividly puts it, in this town "you can't fling a booger without somebody seeing it," who are badly overweight, and can't be counted on.

As before there are little details that matter. There's a cool gun that shoots a wire, like a harpoon: enemy cars become like hooked whales. A thin, oddly shaped bullet will lead them to Shaw. Shaw's got some kind of program in a small laptop that's like a silent WMD; that's what Toretto and his pals have to get hold of. For some reason the CGI, which must be pretty heavy, doesn't bother me here the way it does in Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, maybe because the F&F people are not so much into fires and explosions -- a little bit, but it's under control. Mainly they're interested in getting cars to do things up in the air that nobody would really survive. And let them do that, if they want to. For me though the best moments are when the cars are stationary, and we can admire their custom bodywork, or when Brian cuddles his kid, or Toretto or Tej belts out a one-liner.

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┬ęChris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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