Set-pieces thrill, but 'Fast & Furious 6' ends in anti-climax

Blockbuster sequels are not judged on directorial verve, ingenious plots or award-winning performances, although they certainly help.

Set-pieces thrill, but 'Fast & Furious 6' ends in anti-climax

Blockbuster sequels are not judged on directorial verve, ingenious plots or award-winning performances, although they certainly help.

The barometer of success for any follow-up is the ker-ching of box office tills.

With the exception of ‘The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift’, which foolishly traded in the reliable pairing of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for younger models, takings for successive offerings in the turbo-charged franchise have steadily increased, roaring to an impressive $626m (€487.5m) for ‘Fast & Furious 5’.

Director Justin Lin buckles up once again for this testosterone-fuelled burnout, upping the action ante with a runaway armoured tank and a climactic battle inside a gargantuan Russian airplane.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who has tinkered under the hood with director Lin since the ill-fated third film, relies on a trusted set-up to deliver adrenaline-pumping thrills.

Bigger isn’t always better and there are only so many times one of the gung-ho heroes can fly through the air from a moving vehicle to certain death, then emerge from twisted metal with barely a cut, before our excitement down-shifts to neutral.

At the end of ‘Fast & Furious 5’ [spoiler alert!], Dominic Toretto (Diesel) learnt that old flame Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) was alive.

In a twist worthy of a trashy daytime soap opera, Letty survived the fireball that supposedly killed her but lost her memory and now works as the henchwoman of British criminal mastermind, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).

Tenacious federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his new partner, Riley (Gina Carano), offer to expunge Dom and Brian’s criminal records in exchange for capturing Shaw.

The men reconvene the old team: fast-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), technical wizard Tej (Chris ’Ludacris’ Bridges), drift racer Han (Sung Kang) and his speed freak girlfriend Gisele (Gal Gadot).

Engines roar and rubber burns as Dom, Brian and co head to London to put a handbrake on Shaw’s plans.

‘Fast & Furious 6’ isn’t as satisfying as the previous chapter and the plot springs a puncture in the middle third but Lin puts the pedal to the metal in the set pieces.

Diesel and Walker can play their roles in their sleep, and the lack of expression on the former’s face suggests he might be, while Carano is a ballsy new addition, enjoying a bruising fistfight with Rodriguez in the crowded tunnels of London Underground.

Evans is ineffectual but the script woefully short-changes him and the big showdown with Diesel that should crackle with tension is an anti-climax.

An explosive epilogue introduces a swaggering new arch-nemesis, who starts as he/she means to go on with a cold-blooded assassination.

The engine is already purring for ‘Fast & Furious 7’, directed by James Wan, who helmed the first chapter of the Saw films.

Expect to choke on exhaust fumes in July 2014.

Star Rating: 2½

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