The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Furious 6

The Fast & Furious series began as a look at underground street racing. When that got played out, the producers reinvented it as an unrepentantly outrageous action franchise about a bunch of car enthusiasts who use automobiles to bring down drug cartels and pull off heists. In Furious 6 (that's the official onscreen title, so I'm sticking with it), the gang, led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), teams up with agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to literally save the world. Their target is a madman named Shaw (Luke Evans), who's making his way through Europe, stealing parts needed to build a powerful weapon. It makes perfect sense to get car fetishists to take down a terrorist like this. Who needs the military or the intelligence community when you can have some dude with a can of NOS in his trunk?

Furious 6 and its two predecessors are part of a trend I find very distressing. There is a school of thought which says that the further over-the-top something goes, the better or more fun it is. While exaggeration can indeed be fun, this mentality has led too many filmmakers to give up on trying to make something of actual quality. Instead of developing logical, compelling stories, attention is paid solely to getting as many explosions, chases, shootouts, and fistfights onto the screen as possible. Such willful disregard for anything other than the purely visceral gives those filmmakers license to avoid vital elements, including logic, dramatic depth, and character development. They can sit back and say, “Hey, this movie is just supposed to be fun! Don't expect too much from it!” Is that what we want from cinema – to have to lower our expectations?

Often times, as the most recent chapters of the Fast & Furious franchise prove, these movies are wildly popular. My argument is not meant to criticize audiences who enjoy such films; there's nothing wrong with a little escapism. But let's try an experiment here. Quick: think of your favorite action movie of all time. Which one did you think of? I'm guessing that, for it to hold such a prominent place in your heart, it is a film that has well-staged action, but also a memorable hero, an equally memorable villain, and a story with enough humanity to keep you invested. Die Hard, Terminator 2, Speed, Raiders of the Lost Ark - all movies that deliver plenty of visceral thrills, but also so much more.

All of this is my way of telling you that I think Furious 6 sucks. The film is fundamentally lacking in any of the things that make an action picture memorable. Will people who enjoyed the last two installments enjoy this one as well? Undoubtedly. And you'll get no bunk about it from me. Enjoy what you like and never apologize for it. That said, movies of this nature are not for me. I enjoy a crazy car chase as much as the next person, but I prefer them to come wrapped in a context that makes me care about who's chasing whom, and why. The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., and even The Blues Brothers are fine examples. Furious 6 offers several big chases, all of them in complete defiance of the laws of physics, none of them really worth giving a hoot about.

I disliked the heroes and villain as well. Dom, Brian, Hobbs, and all the other characters possess minimal personality. They each exhibit only one dimension: tough guy, Hey bro! posturing. Every character seems exactly like every other character. Shaw, meanwhile, is equally bland. He exudes no real sense of evil, no particular reprehensible philosophy motivating his scheme. Nothing gave me reason to hope that Dom and crew would apprehend him. Perhaps the only attempt Furious 6 makes to draw one in is the introduction of a “surprise” plot twist so cliched that it's difficult not to see it coming way in advance.

What more is there to say? In not presenting anything of substance aside from some admittedly skillful work from the stunt and digital effects teams, I grew incredibly bored. There's a thing in animation known as the “uncanny valley.” It refers to the fact that audiences react negatively whenever computer-animated humans look too real. People subconsciously sense the artifice and are unnerved by it. This phenomenon is similar to how I feel about visceral-only action movies like Furious 6. They just don't work for me. They strike me as unpleasant and displeasing. A bonus scene inserted into the end credits suggests a seventh Fast & Furious picture is on its way. Perhaps I'll just sit that one out.

( 1/2 out of four)

Furious 6 is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

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