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Film review: 'Fast & Furious 6'

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Here's the thing about the "Fast & Furious" movies: they're cartoons.

I would think this is fairly obvious to anyone who's watched even five minutes of the series -- the high-speed chase sequences that flaunt the laws of physics, the muscle-bound lunks strutting and blustering, the emaciated hoochies with incongruous combat skills.

The whole enterprise is garish and bogus, like sun-tan lotion smeared over plastic surgery scars.

There's nothing inherently wrong with cartoonish movies -- when they recognize and accept their just-for-kicks nature. But "Fast & Furious 6," like all its predecessors, takes itself way, way too seriously to allow any fun.

At least a half-hour too long at 130 minutes, it interrupts its infrequent car chases with lots of scenes where Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson growl their dialogue, usually at each other. We also have a new villain, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who's so busy telling everyone how much smarter he is than them he keeps making obvious mistakes.

Oh, and Michelle Rodriguez, who was pretty definitively offed earlier in the franchise, somehow is brought back with that ol' standby of the lazy screenwriter, amnesia. It's not a very convincing device, nor does it explain away the fact that leader Dom Toretto (Diesel) had already replaced his dead girlfriend with a new one.

Director Justin Lin, who has now helmed all the "Fast" movies except the first two, appears to have simply grown bored with car chases. There's more hand-to-hand fighting than driving, and what road action that remains is muddled and over-caffeinated, like a yippy little dog that barks so furiously it chokes itself. Screenwriter Chris Morgan, also back for his fourth go-round, hasn't improved with experience.

If you'll remember from the last movie -- and why would you? -- Dom and his team of racer-thieves had successfully heisted $100 million in cash. As the story opens they're living the quiet life of luxury as expat criminals. Then their nemesis lawman, Hobbs (Johnson), shows up with proof that Letty (Rodriguez), Dom's old squeeze, is alive and working for Shaw.

Shaw's exact motivations remain a mystery ... something about stealing computer chips from the U.S. government worth billions. He's got his own crackerjack team of tech specialists, plus some cool low-slung cars that can act like ramps for pursuing vehicles, sending them hurtling.

Brian O'Conner, the former cop-turned-criminal played by Paul Walker, is largely shunted to the side in this outing, other than a set-up about being a new daddy and therefore less wild than the old days.

Also returning are Tyrese Gibson as comic relief Roman, Ludacris as hacker Tej, and Sung Kang and Gal Gadot as crime couple Han and Gisele.

Dom & Co. have plenty of cash and little reason to help out the feds, other than finding out if Letty is really alive. It's the familiar claptrap about sticking together.

Diesel does that strange thing he does where he turns his head sideways to the camera, not looking at the person he's talking to while spouting some heavy-sounding gibberish. Like, "You don't turn your back on your family. Even when they do."

The movie occasionally finds the right gear with some particular piece of roadway mayhem -- a sequence where the good guys take on a tank comes to mind. But whenever the movie detours into characters just standing around talking, it's a complete wipeout.

- Christopher Lloyd is co-founder of The Film Yap.com.

FAST & FURIOUS 6
Stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gina Carano, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot. 130 min. Rated PG-13: for language, violence and sexuality. Score: 1.5 out of four; 2 out of five; C+ out of A-E
Last modified: May 23, 2013
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