Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 5/24/13
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Chris Bridges, Gina Carano, Gal Gadot, Joe Taslim, Elsa Pataky, Jordana Brewster, cameo by Jason Statham.

This film is as deliriously entertaining as it is unabashedly absurd, and features the longest airplane take-off sequence in history. A team of highly skilled drivers is stealing components to create some sort of ridiculous doomsday device, and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) asks Dominic (Vin Diesel) to come out of retirement and assemble his team to help take down this international menace. And why would he do something like that? Because apparently his deceased ex-girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is a member of the gang. So he pulls the team back together in exchange for full pardons, to which Hobbs reluctantly agrees. What happens afterwards is inconsequential, since it's just a non-stop onslaught of testosterone fueled violence and vehicular mayhem. Which isn't a bad thing.

What I appreciated most about the film was its kinetic intensity and sense of earnestness. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Hong Kong cinema back in the late 80's and early 90s. This is pure action for action's sake moviemaking, and the filmmakers take their work extremely seriously. The car scenes are indeed fast and furious, and thrilling to watch. The fight scenes are well choreographed and hard hitting, but poor camera work and choppy editing spoils the fun. The return of Michelle Rodriguez is delightful, and Gina Carano is a breath of fresh air. Quite honestly, the promise of seeing the two of them beat each other up was the main reason I went to see the film. While I've read claims that their tussle in the subway is one of the best girl fights in cinematic history, I have to disagree. But regardless, it is quite good and I was very pleased with the result. Dwayne Johnson is charming as always, and the rest of the cast works well and comes together like a well oiled machine. As I mentioned before, Rodriguez and Carano are wonderful, but it's Gal Gadot and Elsa Pataky who really caught my attention. Wowzers. Ms. Gadot is simply mesmerizing, but dramatic foreshadowing leads to the film's biggest disappointment. It's also disappointing that the trailer for the film spoils every single surprise that it has to offer. I would have been much more impressed going into it blind.

As the first "Fast & Furious" movie I've seen, I can't compare it to previous entries, but it feels like they pulled in elements from the entire series in an attempt to create continuity and closure. Luke Evans makes a good and worthy villain, and while the film wraps things up nice and tidy, an out-of-nowhere epilogue is already setting things in motion for part 7. Now I just have to go back and watch the other five films to see what I've been missing.