Is it time already to call the never-ending Fast & Furious franchise Star Trek for petrosexuals? With its ever-expanding canonical mythology full of meatheads driving sweet souped-up rides while spewing shameless soap opera dialogue that would be rejected by Days of Our Lives while performing the kind of stunts that would be deemed too unrealistic in The Matrix universe, is it impossible to imagine five more movies, multiple spin-off series (F&F: The Next Generation?) and a reboot to come out in thirty years with brand new actors telling the story about how these vapid, interchangeable cardboard cutouts met? I wonder, will that incarnation contain a 65-year-old Paul Walker as Brian Prime?
Yes, this series is not going away and it’s time to accept this fact. Apparently, the formula still works since the audience around me during the screening kept laughing at the lame jokes and wooing the pointless, endless action scenes. Yes, the action set piece with the tank on the freeway is as exciting as watching money burn on the screen but is it really that thrilling if we don’t care which of these factory-pressed characters live or die?
A week before the Fast & Furious 6 screening, I was lucky enough to catch a 35mm showing of Aliens at The Hollywood Theatre in Portland. Aliens is hailed as one of the most thrilling action films of all time yet when you analyze the contents of its running time, it contains as much "action" as one tenth of the tank scene in Fast & Furious 6. The first hour is completely reserved for story and character development. By the time the aliens attack, we know and like all of these characters, and it matters to us if they end up Xenomorph poop or not.
Yet I’d be hard-pressed to find a single well-formed, remotely relatable character in any of these films. You can throw in any action you like, at the end of the day it will end up as nothing but a glorified, incredibly expensive special effects demo reel.
The casting of these films basically works as a jobs program for Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the rest, who would be spending their precious times pumping up their pecks while waiting on the unemployment line if it wasn’t for the popularity of this series. The Rock is the only one who has a steady career apart from these movies, and don’t even mention The Mighty Diesel’s new Riddick film. It’s a September release, so it doesn’t count.
Not that you’d really care, but the story (To use a term very loosely) this time around revolves around a soap opera twist so shameless, it hasn’t been used even in the cheapest Telenovelas for over two decades. Yes, we have a case of the "not-deads" everyone! Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is mysteriously back from the dead and, gasp, suffers from amnesia! Dum dum dummmmm!!!
It’s up to Dom (Vin Diesel) and the team, along with their new buddy FBI agent Luke (The Rock, I refuse to call him Dwayne in a Fast & Furious film) to brutally murder countless innocent people, destroy millions of dollars in property and chew through countless plot holes to rescue Letty and get pardons in the process. Geez, haven’t these guys ever heard of "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"? Sorry, wrong franchise.
Letty works for the ruthless criminal known as Shaw (Luke Evans, who at least tries to bring some presence to his depthless character) so the team has to go after him and a McGuffin thingamajig that the government needs because it’s capable of… Do you even care?
We know what everyone cares about. Cars and breasts and explosion and muscles and action and all that good stuff! Well, there’s an extremely forced race scene, which is far from spectacular. The breasts are all covered in perfect PG-13 fashion so why do you care about that in a world where bare boobs doing unspeakable things is only a couple of clicks away?
The testosterone between Vin Diesel and The Rock, along with the baby oil and copious amounts of HGH is so palpable; the film might as well have smell-o-vision. And the action, well, yes is quite spectacular, especially the highway tank scene. But why would you slog through 100 minutes of depressingly horrid material just to lay eyes on 30 minutes of tanks running over endless cars or cars roped up to a plane driving on a runway that must be at least a hundred miles long?
You gotta give it to the producers on one thing though, they know how smart their core audience is. There’s a scene that takes place in London where one of the good guys find out the bad guy is moving his operation to Spain, and another character actually says, "Spain? That’s in a different country."
It’s so funny to me to follow the pandemonium that Universal created after Justin Lin, who directed the last four films, decided not to helm the seventh installment. They scrambled to find a "director with a vision creative enough to move the franchise forward." I laughed so hard, I almost spit my protein shake.