Movie Premiere: Fast & Furious 6

 

The Fast and Furious filmography began in 2001 as a low-budget film based on a magazine article. It now incompasses six feature films and two short films, video games, and it even has its own Guess clothing line. Never aspiring to the same league as franchises such as 007 or Star Trek, FFs are scrappy, popcorn-munching, tremendously profitable testosterone trips. Does the latest installment fire on all cylinders, or run out of gas?

 

Leslie: I only have four words to say about this film: “Go speed racer, go.”

Ken: But - but - but - we’re being paid by the word! And by stammering, I just make an extra 10 cents! You need to say more than four words!

Leslie: I don’t want to say anything.

Ken: What?!?! You have to give your opinion! That’s a movie critic’s job.

[a long and awkward silence]

Leslie: Okay! I liked the film! I liked it a lot! Are you happy?

Ken: You’re kidding, right? A movie about cars, car chases, car crashes, and car explosions, and you liked it?

Leslie: First, I happen to like cars. Especially fast cars. And this flick has lots of deliciously fast cars driven quickly and with great anger. Second, this movie has real heart. Third, the film has a terrific sense of humor. Fourth, the film has impeccable timing; it knows exactly when to be macho, when to be sentimental, when to be honorable, when to be violent, and when to not take itself so seriously.

Ken: Wow. And you know what - I agree with you. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself, but I did. Who knew that a film about vehicular warfare could be so much fun. I only wish it had more porn.

Leslie: What?!?!?

Ken: Car porn! I was expecting to see 2 hours of uninterrupted car beauty shots and lots of carnauba wax polishing going on, but the film is much more than that. After 4 installments of mainly street racer plots, this one follows in the skid marks of FF5, reaching out for bigger audiences, transitioning into a bigger action story - one with car chases, of course. And, I think they pulled it off.

Leslie: And it has a terrific ensemble cast. If I was a teenage boy, I would have a serious man crush on Vin Diesel.

Ken: I am secure enough in my manhood to say that a man crush on Mr. Diesel is completely understandable. What a cool guy.

Leslie: Agreed. Shifting gears, I thought the production work was first class all the way - as good as any Bond film.

Ken: To hit the summer release date, the crew had to work fast. They set up two mixing theaters and essentially had to compress 18 months of production into 12 weeks. At one point, they had 5 film editors worked simultaneously.

Leslie: The soundtrack doesn’t sound rushed at all. I thought the mix between music and sound effects in the London street race sequence was spectacular. The attention to detail was impressive. The song “Here We Go/Quasar” has some great percussive beats that echoed the skittering sound of the tires going around the corners. Plus, the film edits worked perfectly with the music. This whole scene was outstanding.

Ken: And did you notice where the race ended?

Leslie: Are you kidding? Any rock ‘n roll fan who doesn’t see that should have their Stratocaster taken away.

Ken: The soundtrack is perfect for this kind of movie - from the opening track with 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa, to The Crystal Method and Deadmau5.

Leslie: And of course, Ludacris.

Ken: Of course!

Leslie: The director, Justin Lin, clearly studied his craft at the Film School of More is More. The final sequence, on what is seriously the world’s longest runway, has one of the most complex soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Conservatively speaking, there must be a zillion sound effects mixed in there.

Ken: The sound of the harpoon gun and the various cables zipping through the air was outstanding.

Leslie: I really admired how the mixing engineers were able to sustain such an onslaught of massive sound, while simultaneously mixing in details, and keep it building in intensity. That takes skill, and is a blast when you pull it off.

Ken: The sound mixers definitely had fun, and some clout too, on this film. The first time we see cars flying through the air, the music stops to let the “whoosh” play out.

Leslie: And it’s done subtly - it feels like the music just naturally timed out to allow a breath there. It’s a nice touch.

Ken: Considering this is such a macho flick, I’ll bet you were surprised at how strong the women were portrayed - they kicked some serious ass.

Leslie: Seriously! I think the punches and hits in their fight scenes were even louder and more impactful than the guys. Tough chicks rock! Actually, throughout the film, the Foley work was intense and perfect.

Ken: One thing that car fans might notice is that even though the motor in the flip cars is clearly an LS3, it sounds like an F1. I guess an LS3 just doesn’t sound cool enough.

Leslie: LS3 motors are also used in a lot of the mocked up cars. So, to make the sounds match the pretend body style, they replaced the original sounds. In fact, all the car engines were overdubbed.

Ken: In Hollywood, everyone and everything gets overdubbed.

Leslie: You say that like the cars are actors.

Ken: Well, in a film like this, aren’t they? I liked how the plot conveniently had them unable to use contemporary cars, and they had to find a cache of cool retro cars.

Leslie: I loved the line where the guys identify the engine solely from its sound. My kind of guys. And personally, I could have used more screen time with that flip car.

Ken: I need one of those for my rush-hour commute. I wonder if they’ll have a hybrid coming out?

Leslie: Or at least a diesel.... I thought that Lucas Vidal did a great job with the score. The music had a fabulous techno-beat even in quieter scenes, but he also used some really interesting percussion.

Ken: I liked the mixing of the electronic score with deep, acoustic drums - nice blending of electric and organic sounds.

Leslie: There were a few backfires that even great sound design and music couldn’t save. One of the biggest set pieces, the convoy heist, felt tremendously flat and the action was just plain silly. The producers are probably proud that they were able to destroy so many cars, but that seemed to be the only point of that scene - to shred as many cars as they could.

Ken: They also shredded the laws of physics. And, although the film’s plot is adequate, and even has scenes in Russia, it isn’t exactly Crime and Punishment.

Leslie: Speaking of which, what is the verdict?

Ken: I thought Fast 6 would be a guilty pleasure. But it was a genuine pleasure. Moviegoers who avoid it because they think it’s just a dopey car movie are doing themselves a disservice.

Leslie: I agree. This is a fun, high-octane film with lots of clever dialogue and inventive action. Actually, I found it as thoroughly entertaining as Star Trek Into Darkness.

Ken: To end on an even more positive note, the next installment, Fast Seven, is set to begin filming this summer, for a July, 2014 release! Is it a date?

Leslie: Well, actually - yes. After the tease at the end of 6, it would kill me not to see 7.

Ken: As my close, personal friend Vin Diesel says, “Ride or die.”

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