Review: ‘Fast & Furious 6’ Flies Confidently and Absurdly Into Superhero Territory

'Fast & Furious 6' (Universal Pictures)
‘Fast & Furious 6’ (Universal Pictures)
Dispensing with the boundaries of time and space — and breaking loose from the shackles of gravity and logic — allows the latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise to bound confidently, if absurdly, into superhero territory.

Consider: superheroes can fly through the air; ordinary mortals cannot. Superheroes can return from the dead; ordinary mortals, even ones driving wicked fast motor vehicles, cannot.

Fast & Furious 6 is based on the absurd proposition that Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who died several sequels ago, has returned from the dead and is now a member of a gang of thieves who drive very, very quickly and are quite angry to boot. She has amnesia, of course, and no longer recognizes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the former love of her life, who has moved on reluctantly and learned to love again, or at least allowed Brazilian model / some kind of armed agent Elana (Elsa Pataky) to warm his bed.

Dominic and his driving / thieving pals Brian (Paul Walker), Han (Sung Kang), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) are living in retirement, reaping the reward of the millions of dollars they stole / earned by liberating a steel safe, tearing up the streets and businesses of Rio de Janeiro and pretty much ensuring that the Brazilian government would be happy to lock them up forever. The fugitives consider each other to be family, though, and they all come running when Dom whistles at the possibility that Letty is really, actually alive; after all, ‘you don’t leave family behind,’ which is a very popular sentiment among moviegoers and driving / thieving / rich people alike.

The gang has been reconvened at the behest of Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a lone guerilla in camouflage pants who represents the government in some behalf, somehow still gainfully employed after the disaster that was the previous episode of the series. Well, not quite “lone” this time, because he’s joined by his newly faithful sidekick Riley (Gina Carano), and I do mean sidekick; she can punch and shoot guns as well as anybody in camouflage pants, but her distinguishing skill is her capacity to kick people into submission.

The rival gang of villains mirrors the heroes in appearance, as one of the good guys helpful points out, and is led by the shady Shaw (Luke Evans), who wants to steal a computer chip worth billions from the government and/or quasi-governmental entity. The chip’s theft would be devastating to the nations of the world and upset the balance of power and/or would put Apple and Microsoft out of business; the explanation is tossed off quickly and is really not germane to this discussion, because mainly what the movie wants and needs are excuses for people to fight and wisecrack and drive stylish cars very quickly and blow things up and smash vehicles and destroy property and make some more jokes and maybe flirt a little and kill people without dwelling too long on the dead bodies and maybe quite possibly and casually kill innocent civilians but not acknowledge anything more than — wow! Doesn’t that look cool! And, hey! Isn’t that funny? And, oh no, he didn’t! Snap!

As popcorn entertainment, Fat and Furious Sex — or whatever it’s called, the main titles reduce it to Furious 6 — is a lot of hot air, recyles far too many shopworn cliches, and is faithful only to the modern action insistence on cutting in harmony with the chaos method, which prevents easy comprehension of geography and danger. On the other hand, that’s all it wants to be; despite the repeated references to family and the yearning to return home expressed in the script by franchise stalwart Chris Morgan, this is a movie that is built around the action sequences, and director Justin Lin fully exploits the budget that has been accorded to him.

It’s a knowingly absurd film that always keeps a straight face. Fast & Furious 6 doesn’t need to wink at its audience; it’s not a secret that action junkies crave bigger and more boundless experiences, and so much the better if they’re delivered with a friendly sense of humor and a reckless disregard for reality.

Fast & Furious 6 opens wide across the Metroplex on Friday, May 24.

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