BR: Fast & Furious 6 / Furious 6 (2013)

December 18, 2013 | By

Film: Good

BR Transfer: Excellent

BR Extras: Excellent

Label: Universal

Region: All

Released: December 10, 2013

Genre: Action

Synopsis: Dom reunites his team of merry drivers for another assignment with Agent Hobbs, this time to ‘rescue’ former flame Liddy from a life of malevolent crime.

Special Features: Audio Commentary by director Juston Lin / Making-of featurettes / 3 Deleted Scenes / Teaser Trailer for F&F7 / Also includes DVD and Ultraviolet editions.

 

 

Review:

From a narrative stance, Justin Lin’s third return to the franchise is a weaker effort largely because Chris Morgan’s script reverts back to the perfunctory dialogue of F&F4, and director Justin Lin pushes the characters into even deeper cartoon renditions with the actors playing their silliest moments with full gravitas. The effect isn’t awful scenes, but a high plain of the ridiculous and the silly, and a sense Lin has lost his grasp of what made F&F5 so strong – humour, action, and lean story that doesn’t turn characters into leaping cartoon caricatures extrapolated from video games.

It’s a strange collection of problems, because Lin mandates the use of practical effects – a tank chase is almost perfect – and has his camera move like a roving high performance vehicle without the de rigeur attention-deficit, shakycam editing that made otherwise stellar chase scenes in A Good Day to Die Hard 5 (2013), The Quantum of Solace (2008), and The Bourne Supremacy (2004) the worst on film due to awful editing and incoherent cinematography.

Morgan also relies on the charismatic cast to play off each other with their own quips, reducing his role to a construction architect instead of an all-encompassing screenwriter; he may know his characters, having written entries 4 thru 6, but he doesn’t bring in enough small moments to balance the absurd with a little grounding realism.

The F&F franchise is inherently silly – macho behaviour transposed to both genders with chest-thumping threats, arrogant glances, teasing quips, and outrageous car stunts – but its core characters are inherently likeable, and that’s perhaps the key to its success because each actor is well cast and exploited for their screen charisma and smooth fitting inside a high performance car.

That likeability is also what makes the return of familiar and once-dead characters more than tolerable, but it’s fair to say Lin and Morgan jumped a few too many sharks in F&F6 by having Liddy (Michelle Rodriguez) return with amnesia – the age-old conceit used by screenwriters, TV writers, and daytime soap writers to extend characters and their respective series when they’re nearing the end of their natural existence (until a reboot).

The basic story of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and new partner Riley (ass-kicking Gina Carano) luring Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team back into action to extract amnesiac Liddy from a life of cold crime and save the world from a doomsday-style weapon capable of knocking out sovereign defense systems is pure cartoon, and to an extent the story works with plenty of chases and easy resolutions, but where F&F6 goes bad is having characters leap from moving vehicles through air, land with precision, do their job like game characters, and emerge with maybe a bloodless welt. It’s where Lin went too far, and transforms uniquely skilled characters from bleakly ordinary backgrounds into rubber avatars in a kind of personalized video game.

The high point of silliness happens twice. Dom leaps from a moving car as Liddy flies above a freeway, collides into and grabs her, and lands on a car roof. Their punctuating dialogue? “How did you know we’d land on a car hood?” “I didn’t.” And it’s over and done with. Lin’s heavy use of practical effects are neutered by this singular act of supreme dumbness, but it’s a taste of the film’s insane finale involving a giant Russian plane, roving cars, and what appears to be the world’s longest runway, built somewhere in Spain.

With too many characters onscreen, he’s stuck figuring out what each mini-team of good guys and bad guys must do, but rather than dispatch them off in carnage-heavy deaths, they largely survive, and what emerges onscreen is a Flintstones ride where the background [the runway] keeps moving until the central action is done.

Only when the plane is fully immolated does the sequence wind down, and as fun as the hand-to-hand combat sequences may be, the film literally creates its own time-space-continuum until everyone is off the damn plane. It is an incredible thing to watch – a director so in love with mini-combat mobiles and determined to show he can maintain continuity in each of them – but it’s just plain crazy, overblown, indulgent, and likely the knife which cut the fan base into lovers of the new absurd created by Lin and Morgan, or haters of how the franchise regressed into something narratively dumb, albeit elegantly produced.

It’s hard not to be taken in by Lin’s fluid directorial style – his editing is rooted in classical montage – especially when he manages to make fast cuts coherent, and celebrate the fetishistic love of the car by celebrating the sounds and images of gear shifting and pedal-flattening, spinning tires and the beauty of vehicles in motion – but there was no need to transform what’s likely his last stab at the franchise into a Flintstones moment.

Within the F&F franchise, #6 is not as lazy and CGI-reliant as #2; it’s less silly that the goofy but fun #3; it has better CGI effects that #4 (although a few early scenes – a Cliffside race + helicopters flying into London – are terrible); and the film carries on the theme of Family Matters with the huge cast from #5 plus a few amusing cameos from other installments, but #6 is maybe the third or fourth best entry. In the hands of a hack director with no sense of story or love of the characters spanning three prior films, F&F6 would’ve been a dud, so while it’s a relief Lin’s F&F swan song isn’t awful, it’s not very good, which makes the disappointment for fans sting badly.

Universal’s Blu-ray sports a gorgeous transfer, and a DTS track that fills the soundscape with plenty of effects and Lucas Vidal’s decent score (itself maintaining instrumental continuity with Brian Tyler’s prior entries directed by Lin).

Viewers can watch the theatrical and longer cuts, and extras include a director commentary track, a standard batch of making-of featurettes and 3 brief (and unnecessary) deleted scenes. The teaser trailer ties directly to the cliffhanger scene embedded in the early section of the End Credits in which a supporting character is killed by a vengeful figure (Jason Statham), and perhaps herein lies the film’s unexpected attraction – being the next-to-last completed film of co-star Paul Walker, who died in an explosive car crash November 30, 2013, midway into filming F&F7. (His final film, the Luc Besson scripted Brick Mansions, is slated for release in 2014.)

Not unlike The Crow (1994) where star Brandon Lee died before the production’s end, Walker’s scenes in car crashes are a little unsettling to watch (especially one where the car becomes airborne after smacking into the villain’s Batman-like combat racer), and the teaser trailer has Walker at the funeral of the murdered character, with actor Tyrese Gibson saying “No more funerals” – an ironic line as Gibson himself went to the crash site that killed Walker, bearing a remembrance bouquet.

Universal’s BR and its ad campaign were obviously mastered and designed prior to Walker’s death, and the in-production sequel will require some major modifications in order to complete the film. While not his finest film by any means, F&F6 manages to work because of his charisma in playing an infallible, likeable guy taunted and often drawn to conflicts because of loyalty, family, and a need to make right – not deep material, but certainly noble.

 

 

© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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