Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DVD of the Week: Fast and Furious 6

There is something about franchises that get up to the "5s" and "6s" that always generate a certain aura about them; like whatever their other qualities there is something there that people will go and see regardless, so they just keep going. I mean, I think the last film I saw with a 6 at the end started "Police Academy.." and we all know how that ended up, and the other great bastion of big numbers, the Horror Genre, often finds itself beaten with the critical stick for just this tendency. However the Fast and the Furious Franchise has seemed oddly immune to this, maintaining both a fanbase and a watchability factor that seems to deny the normal rules for films with numbers at the end. So this weekend, it was time for Fast and Furious 6.

So really there isn't a lot to analyse in these films, because they really are stripped back to what they want to be. There is an admirable lack of messing around; a quick setup to justify getting the characters together, explain who is new and who is sitting this one out, and then bang! it's on the cars and the set pieces. I know this may not be everyones cup of tea but there are a lot of movies that would learn from the construction and discipline that these films use in getting everything set up. And you know something else? This may be the sixth in a series, and may have a large, recurring cast, but none of the characters are that complicated and none of them needed a whole movie to tell their origin story.

This time the bad guys are basically the mirror image of the team - so much show the film gets a good laugh out of lampshading it, which tells you something about the broad tone - and so they have to team up with the grumpy law enforcement types from the last film to take them down and get pardoned and go home. This mostly involves racing cars and having fights, but the critical thing again is that they joy of this movie isn't any sort of stunning originality, it's the execution. The chases are great chases. The fights are fantastically choreographed and shot. The large ensemble each gets to do their thing and be part of a larger whole.

Speaking of the ensemble, it's also nice to see an action movie where the female characters hold their own. Yes, there is a fair bit of "the male gaze" at times, but the films women aren't treated as objects to be won, or damsels to be rescued, and its still faintly depressing how rare that is. But here they get to race fast cars and shoot guns and kick badguys (and gals) in the face with the rest of them.

In the end, this is a film a little like the cars it fetishes - finely tuned, great to look at, but a little bit silly and unnecessary. It's not an essential film, it's not going to win any awards or aspire to high art. But it is bloody good fun, and knows it.