Review: “Fast and Furious 6”

Fast and Furious 6

Back with yet another cleverly titled sequel, the Fast and Furious franchise is once again breathing life into the careers of Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson.

As those who saw 2011’s “Fast Five” know, the series once known for illegal street racing is now more of an MTV version of “Ocean’s 11”. In this installment, Dominic (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Walker) reassemble their crew from the last film in order to take down an international criminal (Luke Evans) who knows the whereabouts of the previously-thought-to-be-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). In exchange for their help, a government agent (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) will give them pardons to redeem the team from crimes committed in the previous sequel.

The first thing that has to be said about this movie is that’s stupid. Very stupid. The average action film these days will have a certain amount of things happen that wouldn’t actually occur in real life. This makes for more interesting action sequences and an overall exciting time at the movies. However, that approach can only get a film so far. Around the time that Dom drives a car 80 miles an hour into a guardrail to propel himself to catch Letty, who has been thrown from the top of a tank with great force, only for the two of them to land on the windshield of another car without a scratch, you’ll either love “Fast and Furious 6” or punch your friend in the face for talking you into paying to see it.

The worst parts of the film are when director Justin Lin and his team feel they need to provide over the top CGI to make a chase scene interesting. Fortunately there are a couple of action sequences that come off as fairly realistic, the best of which being a hand-to-hand fight between Rodriguez and MMA fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano. As Carano’s acting talent improves, she could become a great asset for future action films (Hello, Lara Croft?).

As for the few scenes of the film not involving exploding airplanes on 40-mile runways, there’s a lot left to be desired. You shouldn’t really expect a good script in a film that has a 6 in the title, but some of the stuff found here is laughable. There’s even a character with long-term amnesia. In 2013!

There seems to be a myth that “Fast Five” and this current film turned a laughable franchise into something of a great action series. Personally speaking, this is not the case. These films are as mediocre and “dumb fun” as they’ve ever been. The only things that have really changed are the scale of the story and the size of the cast.

“Fast and Furious 6” isn’t a terrible film. If you can sustain ludicrous action sequences and poorly-written dialogue, you might even say it’s a really fun movie. Just don’t try to say it’s a great film.

Here’s to hoping films 7, 8 and 9 actually live up to the hype.

Grade: C+

Happy viewing.

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Review: “Haywire” (2012)

It’s January and that can only mean one thing for theatres nationwide: time for all the campy action and demon possession movies to come out and play.

Around this time of year, I generally avoid the theatre unless an Oscar hopeful is just making it around to my city. No sense in wasting good money on movies that even their respective studios have little faith in. (That’s what Netflix is for.)

However, with “Haywire,” I had read online that it was much better than it looked and, considering the supporting cast (Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender), I was intrigued.

The film stars retired MMA fighter Gina Carano in her first big movie (she’s had cameos in a straight-to-DVD movie or two). She plays ex-Marine and current gun for hire Mallory Kane, a skilled fighter and expert field operative. After taking a mission in Ireland, she finds herself set up for murder and hunted by her employer (Ewan McGregor).

Of course, this leads to Mallory tracking everyone down and finding out how many vases she can break over each man’s head, etc.It’s not that original of a concept.

Given that we’ve all seen the “scorned spy out for revenge” story countless times, what does “Haywire” bring to the table that makes it different? In a word: style.

Director Steven Soderbergh (the “Ocean’s Eleven” series) is shooting for a very B-movie vibe to his film. The music is low key. Scenes that are heavy with dialogue take longer than they feel necessary. The film is a thriller for sure, but it’s not in any hurry to get to the thrills.

While Carano may not be the best actress, it’s hard to criticize her too much in a genre defined by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger. That being said, acting lessons should be sought after. Her delivery is flat and I can’t say I would have been upset in the least bit if Michael Fassbender had killed her off 40 minutes in (which is also a script problem).

But with bad actors in action films, there is usually a pay-off. For Gina Carano, it is her MMA-infused fighting style. Soderbergh sets action scenes against a blank wall or some other still environment and lets Carano go to work. The contrast pays off nicely in several scenes and these are arguably the best stuff the movie has to offer.

To save Carano from looking too bad, the producers hired a slew of veteran actors (listed above) to carry scenes which featured more than a few lines of dialogue. Of these actors, Douglas and Fassbender probably do the best with their material.

Some interesting camera work, good fight scenes and talented supporting cast try to make this film better than your average January disappointment, but I wouldn’t suggest “Haywire” to anyone looking for more than just a B-movie action flick. Hey, in a few months it could make a good rental.

Grade: C+

Happy viewing.