By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The key to the “Fast &Furious” franchise’s staying power is not obscure. When other series run out of original ideas they prop themselves up by relying too heavily on car chases.
“F&F” movies don’t have this problem. They are nothing but car chases. That’s the point. And as long as most of the imagination, energy and budget goes into the car chases, these movies do just fine.
We are now up to “Fast &Furious 6,” and the wheels for Part 7 are not only turning, they are specifically set up by a final stinger included in this one’s end credits.
The confidence is well-judged: This is a big, dumb, breathless film, full of crazy stunts and cars blowing up. The locations include London, Spain and the longest airport runway in the world, where a ludicrous climactic chase scene goes on and on.
“6” continues the “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe from the previous movie, as the now-retired posse assembled by low-talking Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) team up again for a “this time it’s personal” job.
Tyrese Gibson, Sung Yang and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges return to their roles.
The gang’s pulled back into action when lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, also returning) needs them to help stop a nefarious band of fast-driving thieves. This other gang is the “bizarro world” version of our crew: They have a corresponding member for each of our heroes, a parallel pointed out in one of the movie’s funnier scenes.
Like any long-running soap opera, “F&F” has the ability to bring back deceased characters. In this case it’s Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who perished a couple of chapters ago.
Given the amount of punishment doled out to people in the “F&F” universe, the fact that she bounced back almost intact (amnesia is a problem, admittedly) is really no great revelation.
Vin Diesel, who once seemed an intriguing presence but now doesn’t do much on film except be fast and furious, is content to stand around and speak the cornball dialogue as though nobody’d ever said these things before. That puts him one up on Paul Walker, who still resembles balsa wood with blue eyes.
The series adds new blood with Mixed Martial Arts champ Gina Carano, who showed off her fighting skills in Steven Soderbergh’s violent and clever “Haywire.” Turns out Soderbergh must’ve really shaped that performance, because here Carano stands around looking as though she’s thinking about anything other than the scene she’s in.
The director is Justin Lin, who has helmed a few of the previous “F&F” pictures. And while Lin has no taste whatsoever, he does have a supercharged appetite for wild action, proved by a gung-ho sequence atop a divided freeway bridge in Spain.
Now, a tank rolling over cars while chained to another car that is falling from an overpass would probably be the climax in any other movie. But Lin prefers a cargo jet with its loading dock open, rolling down the runway at full throttle while fast and furious cars trail in the backdraft.
I don’t need to add that there’s a fistfight going on inside the plane.
At this point, you know whether this is the kind of film you want to see. And if it is, “Fast &Furious 6” will not disappoint.
“Fast &Furious 6” (two stars)
Dumb story and wooden acting, but director Justin Lin has a supercharged appetite for crazed action — and since that’s the whole point of these “F&F” pictures, this one succeeds at its stunt-based goals. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the cast of returning fast drivers.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood 7, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Meridian, Sundance, Thorton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.