*1/2 (out of four)
Confirmed: 2013 is the year of movie amnesia. “Fast and Furious 6” marks the third time in fewer than three months (following “Upside Down” and “Trance”) a film has incorporated that soap-opera staple, and the plot point ain't improving with age.
Neither is the “Fast” series, which perhaps assumes viewers also have amnesia and thus includes quick snippets from the past five films (which saw an increase in fun with 2011's “Fast Five”) during the opening credits of “F&F 6.” Those new to the franchise will see that there have been some car crashes and explosions and kisses and surely feel all caught up.
Like the rest of the series, plot is largely beside the point in “Fast and Furious 6,” which finds Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian’s (Paul Walker) ever-expanding crew of ex-criminals now working with agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to track a bland baddie (Luke Evans) who wants to steal some generically powerful device or something. Much of “F&F6” feels arbitrary; Roman (Tyrese Gibson, funny) notes that the enemy gang is like a copy of their own—imagine if both factions of the “Bizarro Jerry” episode of "Seinfeld" bulked up and chased each other through London—and there is minimal reason to root for one crew over the other.
Common sense (there isn't any) and terrible performances (there are tons) hardly matter in this franchise when the action delivers, but director Justin Lin, strolling away before the series’ next installment rather than leaving it in a blaze of glory, helms the repetitive, overly chatty Part 6 with pure indifference. The climactic action sequence is so under-lit I was glad when a plane blew up so I could see what was happening. The dialogue includes numerous references to “sons of bitches” and this gem from (amnesia sufferer) Letty (Michele Rodriguez), a character given far more respect than she has earned: “Aren't you team muscle? Don't make me go over there and make you team [bleep].”
Hobbs gleefully roughs up one suspect and makes a rude car salesman disrobe, so we know how Hobbs feels about advanced interrogation techniques. There's never been anything subtle about this series, but straightforward and dumb don't always equal mindless fun. Offering scant tension and little concern for its frequently invincible characters, “Fast 6” works better as comedy than action, and only sometimes on purpose.
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