[Screen It]


(2013) (Paul Walker, Vin Diesel) (PG-13)

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Action: A federal agent convinces a retired team of fast-driving criminals to reunite in order to stop an ex-military terrorist from getting his hands on the last piece of a powerful weapon he's going to use on the world.
Taking up where "Fast 5" left off, ex-cop and former FBI agent Brian O'Conner (PAUL WALKER) and his girlfriend Mia (JORDANA BREWSTER) have just had a baby while living overseas following a previous heist that made them and the rest of their crew fabulously rich. They include her brother, Dominic 'Dom' Toretto (VIN DIESEL), who lives nearby with his cop turned criminal girlfriend Elena Neves (ELSA PATAKY); Roman Pierce (TYRESE GIBSON) and Tej Parker (LUDACRIS) who are living the high life; and Han Lue (SUNG KANG) who's bewitched by Gisele Yashar (GAL GADOT).

All retired, Brian and Dom are surprised by a visit from Luke Hobbs (DWAYNE JOHNSON), a muscle-bound federal agent and bounty hunter who previously tried to capture them, only to come to a truce while dealing with a nefarious villain. Now there's a new bad guy on the loose and he's ex-military commando Owen Shaw (LUKE EVANS) who's after the last piece of a powerful weapon that will enable him to knock out the power to an entire country for 24 hours. Even more troubling is that Hobbs has a recently taken picture of Letty Ortiz (MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ), Dom's former longtime girlfriend who everyone believes is dead.

Considering the team views themselves as a family who will do anything for one of their own, and with Hobbs agreeing to get a full pardon for all of them should they help, Brian, Dom and the rest reunite and join Hobbs and his new partner, Riley (GINA CARANO), in the hunt. But they find themselves up against a formidable adversary and his team that includes the likes of Jah (JOE TASLIM), Vegh (CLARA PAGET), Klaus (KIM KOLD) and, so it seems due to her suffering from amnesia, Letty.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
It's rare for a sequel to a film to be announced even before the original or latest movie in a film series is released. Yet, that's what Universal has already done with "Fast Seven," the -- yes you guessed it -- seventh film of the "Fast & Furious" franchise. Considering the enthusiastic audience reaction to the coda tease of that upcoming 2014 film (with a popular action star I won't list to avoid spoiling the surprise for those who aren't already aware), I'd say that's going to be a wise financial gamble on the studio's part.

Then again, this series has proved to be resilient. The first film was released back in 2001 and received a slight majority of recommendation from reviewers that helped it earn north of $140 domestically. The inevitable sequels followed with dwindling artistic scores and box office returns. But the series took an upswing in the latter department with installment number four ("Fast and Furious") and continued that with number five (the appropriately titled "Fast Five") that ended up earning the most and receiving the highest artistic score of the bunch (a true rarity on both counts).

Time will only tell if the trend continues with "Fast & Furious 6," but if I were a betting man, I'd put money on it making some beaucoup bucks 'round the world. And that's because it takes up not long after its immediate predecessor, returns most of that cast (including its biggest draws), and delivers the same sort of stupid, testosterone-fueled action and mindset that proved highly successful last time.

The question, of course, remains as to whether it's a good film or not. If your standard for good is something that will be in the running come Hollywood's next award season run, then no, it's not. The acting isn't particularly remarkable, the dialogue won't have Aaron Sorkin worried about his next paying gig and some of the action sequences are too outlandish (and far too heavily edited at times) for their own good.

On the other hand, if "good" means whether you'll be entertained or not, and you found the original or most recent entries to your liking, then this film delivers in spades. That's because like any smart TV series, this one's allowed audiences to become accustomed to the characters, their nuances and their chemistry together. Thus, while some sticks in the mud will find much of the material repetitive in comparison to what we've already seen delivered, that will be reassuring and welcomed by fans.

The plot -- courtesy of scribe Chris Morgan -- is pretty much of the disposable and unremarkable variety. After the criminal team (consisting of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot and Jordana Brewster) has retired from the game (after scoring $100 million in the last flick), they're called back into action by returning hulkish government agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, appearing as if he's about to burst from his massive musculature).

It seems there's another villain (Luke Evans) on the loose and Dom's former and currently believed to be dead girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez) has been spotted and seems involved. For reasons as outlandish as much of the action, the agent agrees to pardon them if they help capture the baddie, and we're then metaphorically and literally off to the races. As in cars speeding down the streets, into planes, each other and so on, with even an honest to God tank thrown in for good measure (I'm not spoiling anything as it's prominently featured in the trailers).

The latter leads to the film's best action sequence featuring the good-bad guys (they're anti-heroes) trying to stop the bad-bad guys who are headed across a quite high and sometimes divided bridge span. Most any time a tank is thrown into an action sequence in any film, the results are going to be loud and vehicle crushing, and returning director Justin Lin (who helmed the previous three entries) doesn't disappoint.

If only the rest of the film was as exhilarating. Sure, the closing action sequence -- featuring even more cars, plenty of fisticuffs, a large military cargo plane and what has to be the world's longest runway (as the sequence goes on for minutes with the aircraft moving along it at a fairly good clip) -- has its moments. Yet, some of that as well as the various vehicular chase sequences are sometimes far too heavily edited to allow them to gain the sort of traction they need to stand out as memorable bits of action filmmaking.

Even so, I enjoyed the flick about as much as its immediate predecessor, at least in terms of pedal to the metal, turn off your brain, action-based cinematic entertainment. It doesn't really offer anything new to the equation, but the aforementioned coda and its action star addition tease should keep this franchise's engine running and box office wheel's squealing through part seven. For now, "Fast & Furious 6" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 14, 2013 / Posted May 24, 2013

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