‘Fast & Furious 6’: Speed kills (brain cells)

May 22, 2013

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Here’s the nicest thing I can say about “Fast & Furious 6″:

It’s not in 3D.

That’s apparently the only restraint that the makers of this high-end piece of cinema junk-food indulged in.

Otherwise, as exercises in preposterous mayhem go, “Fast & Furious 6” is, well, preposterous. And full of mayhem.

That’s not meant as a compliment.

I’ll admit that I have a predisposition to dismiss any movie with the number “6” in the title. It smacks of the assembly line.

Except, of course, that these movies are like the latest model muscle cars, with newer and more souped-up special effects. Gee, we’ve hijacked semis and buses in the past – how about if we stop a tank? Whee.

The cars, in fact, show more expression than most of the actors. But acting is beside the point. So, for that matter, are narrative sense and character development.

Really, they should just put out a stunt reel and call it good.

Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as Hobbs, an American lawman of indeterminate affiliation who pops up around the globe to track down criminals. He apparently tried and failed to capture Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their crew in “Fast 5” (sorry, missed that one) and, just as apparently, developed a grudging respect for their mad skills.

So when a group of mercenaries, led by a special-ops type named Shaw (Luke Evans), starts stealing technology that will allow them to black-out all electrical power everywhere (or something like that), Hobbs enlists Dom’s group to find and catch the mercenary. The decider: a photo of Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s one true love who supposedly died at the end of “FF4” (otherwise known as “Fast & Furious,” not to be confused with “The Fast and the Furious,” the first in the series). Dom just has to find out if she’s actually alive and everyone else is willing to risk their lives because a) “we’re family” and b) “this is what we do.”

Deep thinkers, these.

So there are car chases in the streets of London (which are surprisingly free of cars), fistfights in the London underground, blah blah blah. The various action set-pieces are lavish and splashy without being actually exciting or involving.

If you thought “The Great Gatsby” celebrated conspicuous consumption, consider this film, which casually wrecks whole fleets of cars in the name of entertainment. Not to go all Occupy-Wall-Street on this movie, but there’s something slightly nauseating about spending more than $100 million to destroy that many automobiles. How about a give-back program in which the studios donate one car to charity for each car they smash up in movies like this?

Look, nothing I can say about this middling piece of empty-calorie cinema product is going to discourage lizard-brain teens from seeing it. Nor, apparently, is critical disaffection going to discourage director Justin Lin who, once upon a time, showed promise as a director of actual movies. He’s cast his lot with being ringmaster for this on-going circus of bogus thrills.

Put it this way: If you’re a discriminating movie-goer looking for a guilty pleasure in which to indulge, try “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Or just binge by renting the rest of the “Fast & Furious” series – but don’t operate heavy machinery afterward.

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