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Even faster and furiouser

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Fast and Furious' offers surprisingly good sixth installment

You can usually tell when an open-ended franchise is hitting the end of its run. The films decline gradually, then steeply. Before long, they disappear into the pop culture memory.

But then you have the 'Fast and Furious' franchise, which might be at its popularity apex with the sixth installment in the series.

'Fast and Furious 6' once again finds street racer-turned-international criminal Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, 'Riddick') and his implausibly highly-skilled crew embroiled in a high-stakes robbery. Only this time, they're the good guys.

Toretto is recruited by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, 'Pain & Gain'), the very government agent whose capture the crew evaded in the previous film, to help take down a team of thieves attempting to assemble and sell a powerful weapon to the highest bidder. Toretto's initial refusal is rebutted by a revelation from Hobbs apparently, Toretto's believed-dead girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, 'Resident Evil: Retribution') is actually alive, has amnesia and is conveniently working for the bad guys.

Said bad guys are led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, 'The Raven'), a former British special forces soldier who appears to have unlimited resources and a real problem with intimacy.

The crew undertakes the mission, but soon discovers that Shaw and his team are a step ahead of them at every turn. A series of increasingly unlikely plot developments and high-octane action scenes unfold as Toretto and Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker, 'Hours') and all the rest try to save the world or something.

This movie is one of the most ridiculous things that I've seen in ages. The action sequences are gleefully defiant of anything resembling realism, while a fleet of muscle cars could be (and sometimes are) driven through the plot's multiple holes. The immediate reaction is to generally observe how the whole thing is, well, kind of stupid.

It's almost shocking how wrong that is.

It's fascinating to watch Vin Diesel and the Rock trade furrow-browed dialogue. And the two of them are both in their respective glory with this film. The Rock particularly seems to be enjoying himself he's ideal for this type of movie. Walker is as inoffensive as oatmeal; he just takes up space, but he's agreeable enough. MMA fighter Gina Carano ('Haywire') has a nice turn as Hobbs's partner. Evans is all urbane sociopathy, a ridiculous villain for a ridiculous story. He's fine, as is the rest of the cast and truthfully, with a script as absurd as this one, it almost doesn't matter.

'Fast and Furious 6,' rather than being weighed down by its many flaws, is almost elevated by them. There are no apologies offered for the frankly ludicrous words and deeds offered by the people in this movie. It's as if the editors of Motor Trend enlisted John Woo to direct a cartoon show.

And it works.

Director Justin Lin has overseen this franchise's evolution from a movie about street racing into a tentpole action movie featuring a group of precision-driving commando superheroes. That evolution has resulted in a couple of not-bad action movies. Because for all the criticisms one might throw at 'Fast and Furious 6,' it is also a really entertaining movie. It's not a great movie it might not even me a good movie but it is a fun movie. Ramps on highways and exploding airplanes and flying headbutts these are the gasoline that fuel this movie.

Summer movies are supposed to be about entertainment, and as such, 'Fast and Furious 6' is a quintessential example.

4 out of 5


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