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Furious 6 mayhem includes cool-injected drivers.

That increasingly rare Hollywood franchise in which the heroes sport street clothes instead of spandex, Universal's Fast and Furious shifts into sixth gear with few evident signs of engine wear. Mounted on an even larger scale than 2011's epic (and massively profitable) Fast Five, this series swan song for helmet Justin Lin (onboard since 2006's Tokyo Drift) ups its ante on balletic vehicular mayhem and international intrigue, while mending some loose narrative ends and unfurling others. Faithful fans and passersby alike should be more than pleased by this superior piece of classical action craftsmanship, which looks to meet or exceed its predecessor's nitrous-boosted $626 million global take.

Fast & Furious 6 (or merely Furious 6, as its official title card reads) otters an object lesson in how to keep a leggy saga alive and relevant without losing sight of the elemental strengths that made it popular in the first place. Though high-octane stunts have always been the primary selling point here, 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.

The 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. Women and men kick ass in equal measure in the Fast movies, and the good guys/girls come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There's even a romance between a Korean (Sung Kang's Han) and an Israeli (Gal Gadot's ex-Mossad agent, Gisele)--which, by major studio standards, is more exotic than Captain Kirk bedding down with an alien.

Furious 6 opens amid the scenic vistas of Spain's Canary Islands, where FBI agent-turned-fugitive Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his former nemesis-turned-BFF, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), were seen hanging up their car keys at the end of Fast Five, along with Dom's pregnant sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), aka the future Mrs. O'Conner.

Following a brief prologue in which Mia gives birth, the pic hopscotches to Moscow, where federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, reprising his Fast Five character) surveys the damage from a violent attack on a Russian military convoy. The culprit, Hobbs explains to his new partner (Haywire star and real-life MMA champion Gina Carano), is Owen Shaw (the snarling Luke Evans), an international man of mystery seeking to build a dirty bomb. Shaw doesn't intend to use the bomb himself, but rather wants to sell it to the highest bidder. In a departure from the latest vogue in movie villains, this one isn't an ideological, bin Laden-esque terrorist, but rather a stone-cold capitalist.

Shaw runs with his own gang of grease-monkey mischief-makers and tools about in a custom-built "flip" car (so named for the damage it inflicts on anything it comes into contact with). Resolving that "you need wolves to catch wolves" Hobbs hightails it to the Canaries to enlist Dom's help--a negotiation expedited by Hobbs' revelation that one of Shaw's associates is a dead ringer for Dom's erstwhile soulmate, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

Soon, Dom has most of the old band back together. And if teamwork has always been the principal subtext of the Fast movies, Furious 6 is the most overtly Hawksian of the lot, pitting Dora's belief in family and trust against the mercenary Shaw, who treats his people as expendably as spark plugs.

It's a perfectly adequate plot for a movie that's really about finding new ways of making cars do things they aren't supposed to do, such as, in the movie's most spectacular image, dangling from the wings of a mighty Russian cargo plane. The results often retain the feel of a child happily smashing his toys to pieces, particularly in this pic's finish, an exhilarating pursuit along a winding Canaries highway.

All of it is staged by Lin, alongside returning cameraman Stephen F. Windon and an expert team of stunt coordinators and second unit directors, with a keen attention to spatial geography and a preference for capturing complicated pieces of action in single, continuous shots.

Fast & Furious 6

Director: Justin Lin

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson

CREDITS: A Universal release presented in association with Relativity Media of an Original Film/One Race Films production. PRODUCED BY Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Clayton Townsend. EXELUTIVE PRODUCERS. Justin Lin, Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent, Chris Morgan.

DIRECTED BY Justin Lin.

SCREENPLAY. Chris Morgan,

BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY Gary Scot Thompson. CAMERA (DELUXE COLOR. 35MM WIDESCREE N). Stephen F. Windon; EDITORS. Christian Wagner, Kelly Matsumoto, Greg D'Auria; MUSIC. Lucas Vidal; PRODUCTION DESIGNER. Jan Roelfs; SUPERVISING ART DIRECTOR. James Hambridge; SENIOR ART DIRECTORS. Les Tomkins, Stuart Rose; ART DIRECTORS. Guy Bradley, Toby Britton, Gavin Fitch; SET DECORATOR. Richard Roberts; COSTUME DESIGNER. Sanja Milkovic Hays; SOUND (DATASAT/DOLBY DIGITAL/ SDDS) John Casali; VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISORS. David Vickery, Kelvin McIlwain; VISUAL EFFECTS PRODUCER. Kevin Elam; CASTING. Lucinda Syson. REVIEWED AT AMC Loews 34th Street, New York, May 7, 2013. MRAA RATING: PG-13. RUNNING TIME: 130 MIN. CAST: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Gina Carano, John Ortiz.

SCOTT FOUNDAS

@foundasonfilm
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Author:Foundas, Scott
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie review
Date:May 20, 2013
Words:869
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