What can be said of the 6th film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise? That it is a very BAD movie? That all the goodwill generated by the last film has been wasted with this exploitative mess? That the action sequences are so poorly shot and edited that you will be forced to look away to keep from becoming nauseous? Yes, these things can and will be said of “Furious 6.” And while they are all true, all the bad reviews in the world won’t keep the film from packing theaters on the opening weekend. But the promised next entry may have diminished returns.
After a new and ruthless team of thieves led by the scary Shaw (Luke Evans) draws the attention of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his special team of super criminals are asked to help. Working with the cops is tricky, but Hobbs sways Dom by showing him that an old friend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is now a member of Shaw’s team. Dom moved on thinking that Letty was dead, but now, he has to find out the truth. Organizing his team of regulars, Dom and Hobbs form an unlikely alliance one that will be tested as Letty’s story unfolds. To find the truth, a lot of cars and people must die.
During the opening credit sequence, my Film Fix co-host, Jeff Marker, leaned over to me and whispered, “This has become a TV show.” So true… The “Furious” series has now become little more than episodic television on the level of 1980s cheesy actioners like “Knight Rider” or “The Dukes of Hazard.” But where those shows and others like them get a pass because of their appearance on the small screen and less than an hour of total running time, “Furious 6” gets little slack from me. To be clear, I really liked the last film and even liked the one before it. The original was very decent. But now, as the characters and story falls more and more into camp and outright parody, you have to ask yourself whether you want to spend money seeing something that fails to aim a little higher.
The dialogue is terrible, I mean, dismally written. The fight sequences are just about unwatchable. And the storyline makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in places. Only the car chases offer some entertainment, and they feature so much destruction and loss of innocent lives that I questioned whether enjoying this fantasy on any level is morally defensible. There is a scene in this film where the villain hijacks a high-speed tank and drives it down a crowded highway. The tank literally crushes every vehicle in its path, presumably killing the drivers and passengers therein.
Think about this for a minute. We’re supposed to cheer as our rag-tag group of flawed heroes race to stop the tank. Nine-year-old boys will find the whole thing COOL, because they don’t properly grasp the heartbreak left in the tank’s path. And the filmmaker well knows this. But the film is rated PG-13, so, the bulk of the viewers will be older and should know better. The body count here is high and senseless. You are expected to clear your moral paradigm and excuse the loss of life and destruction because it occurs within the fantasy construct of the movies. Never is there a moment of repose to reflect on the tragedy. This makes “Furious 6” completely devoid of moral value. And since the key viewers are boys under the age of 16, such thematic focus is unredeemable.
Aside from my problems with the production and the narrative, it is worth noting that Diesel looks really long-in-the-tooth here. His muscles just aren’t what they used to be, and beside the perfectly built Johnson, he really looks old. Diesel’s razor voice is great, but what they have him say, approximating some kind of pallid limerick, nonsense, pure nonsense, punctuating the action sequences with little value. How sad. If used properly, Diesel can be very effective. Let’s hope that he is used better in the highly anticipated (at least, by me) third Riddick film.
“Furious 6” is really an insult. Fans of the series should penalize it and stay away. Instead of going tighter and grittier, this film goes for explosions and foolishness, trying to evoke cheap laughs that often fall flat. Probably because the producers worried that viewers would immediately flee the theater the tag at the end credits, teasing the next installment, plays almost immediately. And that means another mess is forth-coming.