Showing no signs of slowing down -- quite literally -- the "Fast & Furious" franchise speeds back into theaters Friday with its sixth installment. The gang's all here, including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez, and of course the premise is familiar: Said gang engages in high-octane vehicular havoc.
And though it's said that familiarity breeds contempt, that hasn't been the case with "Fast & Furious 6" when it comes to reviews. Plenty of critics are calling the film an entertaining thrill ride.
Times film critic Betsy Sharkey wrote: "For all the excess in the latest installment of the adrenaline-injected street-racing action franchise, its humble, low-budget 2001 beginnings are still visible today in the rear-view mirror of Dom's super souped-up 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger." Although "the movie doesn't know when or how to put the brakes on," it does "understand precisely what it is. No pretensions to greatness, it demonstrates total dedication to 'badassness.'"
In other words, it ain't Shakespeare, but it is "a pretty sweet ride."
Mick La Salle of the San Francisco Chronicle similarly described "FF6" as "a stupid movie made by smart people for smart audiences in the mood for something stupid but glorious, stupid but well-made, stupid but knowing it." Got all that? LaSalle continued: "In place of intelligence, 'Fast & Furious 6' has movement, both in story and in action. It has big, basic emotions. And it has Vin Diesel," who has a knack for selling corny lines.
The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger said Johnson has a similar grasp of the material: "He knows how to deploy his half-dozen expressions -- the sly grin, the single-eyebrow arch -- and is still a welcome sight, where other actors might by this point be overexposed."
As for the story, there's "just enough plot to propel the movie from car chase to car chase." The question, Genzlinger said, "is whether Justin Lin, the director of this film and three of its predecessors, can top himself." With set pieces that include armor-plated cars flipping other cars, a tank crushing cars and an airliner getting harpooned by still more cars, "FF6" is "at least on a par with the earlier installments," he said.
Variety's Scott Foundas called the film a "superior piece of classical action craftsmanship" that "ups its own ante on balletic vehicular mayhem and international intrigue." He added that "Lin and veteran 'Fast' screenwriter Chris Morgan have labored to add depth, dimensionality and inner conflict to the now-sprawling cast of recurring characters -- so much so that, at times, 'Furious 6' plays like a glossy gearhead melodrama."
Speaking of the cast, he said that "[t]he actors have grown nicely into their roles over the years, evolving into one of the most diverse ensembles ever assembled for this kind of production."
USA Today's Claudia Puig, however, put the brakes on all the positive press, writing, "This sixth installment ... is all commotion, clashes and crashes all the time." Despite "a few exciting stunts," the movie is "ultra-formulaic," "the story is standard-issue" and "the quips generally fall flat."
She added: "Here's a movie that could easily have been dialogue-free. And probably would have been better for it."
But that idea will have to wait for "Fast & Furious 7."
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