DVD: Car saga stuck in first gear

DVD: Car saga stuck in first gear

FAST & FURIOUS 6 (M)
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Universal, 130minutes

SUBJECT matter dictates shooting style in Fast & Furious 6.

Director Justin Lin, overseeing his fourth consecutive entry in the automotive-mayhem franchise, pursues perpetual movement, capturing it in the many gleaming vehicles featured, then circling his actors should they dare to stand still. Jumping from country to country, streetscape to freeway, Lin keeps the movie speeding ahead lest you notice the flaws.

There’s no greater sin in this series, which has sprung from humble B-movie beginnings in 2001 to become a provider of biennial blockbusters, than to be a pedestrian. It’s understandable: no collection of movies gets six deep without certain idiosyncrasies or cinematic shorthand taking hold, and The Fast and the Furious, in which some of the actors now look like they’ve been customised even more than the cars, is no different.

Lin and returning screenwriter Chris Morgan have overseen a transformation that has taken the focus from rival loners to extended families. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), the original adversaries who have become the fulcrum of the franchise, now have friends, partners and, in the case of the latter, a child with Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster).

And even though Dom is ensconced in Spain’s Canary Islands with Elena (Elsa Pataky) – the Brazilian police officer introduced in the previous instalment, Fast Five – he’s soon on his way to London at the prospect of finding his former wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who hethought dead.

One of the reasons these movies have such an oversized cast is that Diesel and Walker are such banal actors. Left alone on screen, they can inspire a narcolepsy outbreak.

In the original The Fast and the Furious, the focus was illegal street racing, but they’ve gradually become heist movies in which the participants leave their vehicles only to climb into other vehicles, preferably at high speed. Now, with the promises of pardons from Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the US government agent introduced in Fast & Furious 5, Dom and Brian’s crew are working with the law.

Their adversary is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a former SAS officer specialising in ‘‘vehicular warfare’’ who has served in Kabul, Basra, and presumably peak hour on Punt Road. Driving the bastard child of the Batmobile and boasting a gang that includes a model (Clara Paget), a hulking giant (Kim Kold) and Letty, Shaw is pursuing pieces of something incredibly valuable with a ludicrous name.

Part of the franchise’s appeal to international audiences is the genuine racial diversity of the recurring characters, who include actors of African-American (Tyrese Gibson, rapper Ludacris), Asian (Sung Kang), Latin American (Rodriguez), and Polynesian heritage (Johnson). For once, an actor such as Walker, your classic all-American quarterback, is in the minority.

The car-centric nature of the films is sometimes amusingly daft, as when Shaw is traced by his car modifications instead of his team’s faces. There are too many lazy moments in the picture, whether it’s a villain who happily reveals his plan because he assumes he’s safe, or the lack of a decent framing shot in fight scenes featuring the forceful Gina Carano, who plays Hobbs’s new offsider, Riley. Only a well-constructed finale, along an airstrip runway, compensates for the sometimes rote filmmaking.

Rating: ★★

– Craig Mathieson

THE HANGOVER PART III (MA 15+)

Warner Bros, 114minutes

YOU’VE got to hope director Todd Phillips and his gang of actors stay true to their word and leave this as the final edition of this rude and riotous comedy odyssey.

I don’t say this because they should close the tomb and lock it tight because they’ve run out of ideas and it feels tired and stupid. Quite the opposite; this bawdy franchise leaves on a high, staying true to the characters it has developed, letting them grow up … a little bit.

Zach Galifianakis as Alan takes centre stage in this movie, reeling a personal mental crisis that blurs his judgment and eventually endangers his three mates – Phil (Brad Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha).

Ken Jeong reignites his role as bad boy Leslie Chow and fires up the physical comedy and craziness that drives the movie along.

There is no point in analysing the plot. Let’s just say it is tight enough and loose enough to get us from one set-up to the next. The timing and gag lines are the devices that make this movie work. Las Vegas works a charm as a backdrop in the care of Phillips.

The laughs churn along right to the very end, and into the extra features as well. Maybe not wholesome family entertainment, but certainly good juvenile fun.

Rating: ★★★

– Jim Kellar

BLACK MIRROR, THE COLLECTION,

(MA 15+) Madman, 235minutes

CHARLIE Brooker has a record of success as an ascerbic wit and media critic in Britain.

His insight in the Black Mirror series into the modern world of technology and the social dilemmas and challenges it presents is frighteningly good.

The first show in the series, National Anthem, presents a scenario where the British prime minister faces a kidnapper’s mandate to fornicate with a pig on live national TV in order to free a young princess from the Royal Family, or else she will be killed. As far-fetched as the plotline sounds, the show moves so quickly you buy into the premise and hang on the for ride.

The second show, The Entire History of You, revolves around the idea that we are all implanted with a memory chip that allows us to recall everything that has happened in our lives, and share it with others. But this dreamy idea is not without its downfalls.

Billed as a cross between The Twilight Zone and the Tales of the Unexpected, Black Mirror does not disappoint. It’s a bit more on the white-collar side of life, but the questions and presumptions about technology are certainly real and not beyond the imagination.

Rating: ★★★

– Jim Kellar

WINNERS

THE winners of last week’s Chasing Mavericks DVDs were: Ben McCulloch, of Merewether; Kevin Apthorpe, of Abermain; Phil Smith, of Blacksmiths; Dorothy Marshall, of Warners Bay; and Michael O’Neill, of Narara.

PEDESTRIAN: Paul Walker and Vin Diesel fail to kick-start Justin Lin’s disappointing crime caper Fast & Furious 6.