The first of a new series where two of our writers thrash out a film disagreement with only their wits and spell check to assist them. To the death!
Fast & Furious 6
Owen Hughes is a big dumb action fan (interpret that how you wish), but even he has standards.
Now I’m as big a fan of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in action movies as the next guy. He’s great in the earlier stuff like Welcome to the Jungle and Walking Tall, as well as more recently in films like Faster and GI Joe: Retaliation. Considering he’s in about a hundred films released this year, it’s not really that surprising then that not all of them can be hits. Some of them, such as Fast & Furious 6, had to be misses.
Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever seen the first film in the series and none of its sequels that I didn’t like F&F6? Maybe it takes time to warm to the annoying, one dimensional, unfunny characters and their slapstick comedy mixed with flailing one-liners?
I didn’t really expect the film to be any different to what it was. I’d seen the seven minute or so long preview that shows an edited version of the tank scene twice already when it was shown before Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. I wasn’t hugely impressed (“we need a plan b, c, d, a whole other alphabet”. Sigh.) Although, in the context of what’s happening with the plot – I use the term ‘plot’ loosely – that action set piece does work fairly well. If you could remove some of the horrendous snappy one-liners, I might even have said it worked rather well.
In fact, most of the action bits which punctuate every scene like an unnecessary exclamation mark are handled well. No less well than you’d expect, but ‘well’ all the same. You have people leaping from one car onto another, fighting on planes, some very pretty shots of London as cars race through the brightly lit streets at night. Can’t really argue with that.
However, it has virtually no substance. The Rock tries his best, but the cast are just charisma vacuums. Vin Diesel’s face has about 3 muscles in it; one to control his bottom lip to allow him to mumble and one which allows his thick leathery forehead to force his eyelids down so he can blink/sleep. The final muscle pulls back the corner of his mouth so you can tell when he’s happy/satisfied/pleased with himself. The rest of his face does. not. move. If they ever plan on remaking The Terminator…
I bloody love big dumb action films usually. We’ve all heard of the phrase “so bad it’s good”, and whether you agree with that term or not, there’s some truth to it. A film can be so intentionally stupid that it somehow becomes quite entertaining. But there’s a line to how dumb and how big an action film can be before it does a full 360 turn and goes back to being just dumb. F&F6 is one of those movies; one of the most ridiculous, lame, downright stupid movies I’ve seen in the cinema all year. It was trying so hard to have fun that it felt forced and meant I wasn’t having fun at all during it. The most excited I got during the film was at the end credits with a certain cameo. Why? I’ve no idea because I don’t really plan on watching the sequel!
Until this week I hadn’t seen a single Fast and/or Furious film, and in a disturbing turn of events I have now seen three of them. That’s half the series. I had always dismissed these films as Top Gear for teenagers. Big dumb car crashes, terrible acting, and that awful music that young people listen to. (You know, anything made after 1998.) Luckily, my obsessive and completest nature decreed I needed to make a dent in the franchise before we reviewed Fast & Furious 6 on this week’s podcast. Spending so long in such a short space of time with these ‘characters’ had an odd effect on me. I grew fond of them.
The thing is, it’s impossible to judge the true value of Fast & Furious 6 in isolation from the rest of the series. Indeed, this is a film franchise bizarrely obsessed with its own continuity and mythology which at times is more complex than a season of Game of Thrones. Going into FF6 without watching the rest of the series is akin to trying to jump straight into a random episode of a soap opera and criticising character decisions and motivations, or plot twists you didn’t see coming.
In fact, the Fast and the Furious films are the last great American soap opera. Not only does it follow the naming conventions of classics like The Bold and the Beautiful, or The Young and the Restless, but the themes and plot points are also remarkably similar. Fast and Furious 6 alone features fan favourites returning from the dead, characters with amnesia, and even a comment on the existence of evil twins. The script serves purely to move the story along, and this film features even more exposition than explosions.
It does stop every now and again for a character to put each other down, but usually in a loving, familial way. There are a few terrible lines delivered with the intensity of a Royal Shakespeare Company graduate auditioning for Hamlet though, with my personal favourite being Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) wisely imparting the knowledge that “to catch wolves, you need wolves”. I’m not sure that’s exactly how bait works. I’d consider a goat tied to a stake and armed men in position a better way than some kind of wolf showdown; but that’s why I’m not haring around the world recruiting criminals to catch other criminals, and playing hard and loose with diplomatic treaties.
Personally, I like Vin Diesel in these films. He’s cool, calm, and even gets to beat up The Rock at times. All while talking like he uses nettles and razor blades as mouthwash. Paul Walker is hilariously bad, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the film. He spends almost every scene with a look of childish glee on his face, as though he can’t quite believe this is his job. In many ways though, this is exactly how maverick FBI agent turner super criminal Brian O’Conner would behave in the same situation. Maybe we just don’t see that this giddy and excitable character has completely taken over the personality of method actor Paul Walker?
The rest of the cast are a pretty likeable bunch, and you definitely get the feeling of the dreaded ‘F’ word that is uttered every few minutes. Family. The really great thing about this film is that although it is very self-aware, it still treats its serious moments with a level of respect that is admirable. As a convert to the series I really enjoyed the latest outing for the crew, but even if I hadn’t become so connected with the characters I still would’ve had ten times the fun watching it than I did last year’s The Bourne Narcolepsy.
Sit down. Strap in. Ride or die.
Are you Team Owen or Team James (as we believe is the common parlance with the youth)? Is this fast becoming a favourite franchise, or are you furious that they keep making them?