‘Fast and Furious’ series is in need of a new idea

By Gary Clift

As the recent Baz Luhrman-directed version of “The Great Gatsby” suggested, there are stories the movies can’t tell really well. Film is probably most successful when it is giving us a horror story. In second place might be the action story, like those in the “Fast and Furious” series.

But the latest of these movies, “Fast and Furious 6,” is kind of a drag. It is so clogged with cliche that even the scenes with hot cars going fast are less attractive than they have been in the earlier films in the sequence.

Oh, the director is Justin Lin, who did “Fast and Furious” just four years ago. And the cast is all back, including Michelle Rodriguez, whose character Letty was killed in an earlier movie and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, who wasn’t in the original film.

Vin Diesel is back as Dom, the ring leader of a gang of young thieves in fast cars. His former adversary-turned-partner O’Conner is again played by Paul Walker. Dom’s sister and O’Conner’s inamorata is the new mother Mia (Jordana Brewster). Dom’s replacement girlfriend is Brazilian Elena (Elsa Pataky).

And then there are the side men. Tyrese Gibson plays the comic relief character Roman. Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges play Han, Gisele, and Tej respectively.

This film’s villain is Shaw (Luke Evans). He wants to assemble some sort of nuclear device with which he can blackmail the world. Hobbs (Johnson) is a super cop who recruits Dom’s “crew” out of retirement to stop Shaw.

Shaw has his own fast-driving associates. One of them appears to be Letty. Eventually we learn that she was not killed in the car crash in the earlier movie, but that she suffers from amnesia. And right there is one of those stupid story cliches that make it impossible to get lost in “FF6.” There are lots of others.

In fact, the dialog seems to have been assembled from blocks of over-familiar idioms. “You’re in over your head.” “I can reach out and break you at any time.” “Give them a minute.” “Watching each others’ backs.” And so on. Surprisingly few sentences are spoken here that we haven’t heard before in movies.

And I think no action takes place that we haven’t seen, although “FF6” has more long leaps from one moving vehicle to another than I’ve seen before in one film. Usually the leaping parties will land on a car hood, damaging it and themselves as little as Erik Kinnard hurts himself when clearing seven feet and landing in the high jump pit.

I mean, Dom is shot in the chest, he pulls out the bullet himself, and then he drops it into a kidney-shaped steel bowl of the sort that is always available wherever bullets are abstracted.

Nor does the story make any sense. Near the climax, Hobbs and the boys let Shaw go and then, without having accomplished anything by doing so, set off to catch him again almost immediately. Then, of course, one wants to ask over and over what the teams of car drivers have to do with the international blackmail plot.

There aren’t as many scenes with scantily clad, under-aged girls parading before street races as has been the case in the series’s earlier movies. But there is one. And someday soon the “Fast and Furious” sequel will have a number that is higher than the average age of the hot pants nymphs at its starting lines.

Unfortunately, that occasion may come very soon, given the rate they are making the sequels. Perhaps the movies would be better if Lin and his associates waited until they had a new idea for the next feature. I’m sure that would be better. The resulting movies couldn’t be much worse.

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