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Roman (Tyrese Gibson) makes a death-defying leap in “Fast & Furious 6.” Photo courtesy Universal Pictures
Roman (Tyrese Gibson) makes a death-defying leap in “Fast & Furious 6.” Photo courtesy Universal Pictures
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: ‘Furious 6’ is no jalopy

Even with a full tank of gasoline, a modified engine, and an assortment of expert drivers, “Fast & Furious 6” spends more time trying to avoid getting into a car accident than living in the fast lane with confidence. 

Following their successful Rio de Janeiro heist to steal $100 million, Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang are living out their retirement days in peace, although their criminal records prevent them from returning home. Their idyllic lifestyles, however, are interrupted by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who wants them to assist him in taking down a mercenary gang that he has been tracking for some time.

Dom agrees to lend a hand, on the condition that he and his crew receive full pardons for their crimes. Left with no other choice, Hobbs agrees to the deal.

Enter the target’s leader, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who is the polar opposite of Dom in terms of leadership style and companionship. And if this ex-commando’s lethal skills aren’t enough to put Dom on edge, what may be even more troubling is the fact that Dom’s thought-dead girlfriend, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), is now working with Shaw.

Whoever has seen or at least heard of “The Fast and the Furious” knows that the series was never meant to be taken seriously. Nope, it’s an excuse to turn off your brain as you sit back and enjoy the sight of dangerous car stunts, beautiful women, rugged men, and teamwork.

It would be a lie to say there wasn’t anything I enjoyed from this high-octane popcorn movie. Director Justin Lin takes advantage of the spatial dimensions of his surroundings and charges headfirst into the action sequences, allowing the forward momentum to be his guide. Lavish stunts take shape in the process, as indicated by the London car chase between Shaw and Dom’s crews and the street racing competition between Dom and Letty. Some of the more over-the-top moments include the tank highway battle and the airplane runway climax, where all the roads taken by the characters lead to one hell of a gigantic blast.

Left to right: Han (Sung Kang), Dom (Vin Diesel), Riley (Gina Carano), Shaw (Luke Evans) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast & Furious 6.” Photo by Giles Keyte
Left to right: Han (Sung Kang), Dom (Vin Diesel), Riley (Gina Carano), Shaw (Luke Evans) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast & Furious 6.” Photo by Giles Keyte

While this summer action vehicle is by no means a jalopy, it’s not the type I would select for the next grand prix. Many attempts at humor fall flat and don’t come off as natural, and the importance of Shaw’s gang isn’t as highlighted as Dom’s. The reasons behind Letty’s reappearance don’t carry much weight with them, and even the conversations she shares with Dom lacked any sense of passion. Also, in contrast to the endless twists and turns in “Fast Five” that kept the excitement level up, “Fast & Furious 6” is one car too predictable to the point where you’re in for a ride, but you won’t get much of a kick out of it.

Top dogs Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are still as unstoppable as they have always been from the start, either behind the wheel or on foot. Johnson is no longer the essential ingredient he was in “Fast Five;” his presence here is pointless, now that he is a reluctant ally. In fact, it might have been better had former MMA fighter Gina Carano taken his place, considering how she holds our attention whenever she enters her warrior mode to fight with Rodriguez.

Speaking of Rodriguez, her return to the franchise isn’t as momentous as purported by the advertisements, despite having retained her feisty attitude. Luke Evans delivers a dose of thrill-seeking arrogance, though he quickly becomes forgettable. Lastly, there isn’t much for me to say about Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, and Elsa Pataky: Each one of them is either comic relief or a love interest.

“Fast & Furious 6” may be a powerhouse of vehicular fury, but I doubt it will evoke the same impact that made “Fast Five” a memorable fun ride two years ago. It has the specifications to qualify for driving down the highway to reach your destination three exits down, but if you’re assuming it will transport you to somewhere on the other side of the country, think again.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language.

Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Playing: In general release