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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

Dominic Corry: The highs and lows of the fast and the furious

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Dominic Corry gets set for the New Zealand release of Fast and Furious 6 by delving into the franchise's history and naming its best and worst moments.

It's strange to consider that there are now as many chapters in the Fast and Furious saga as there are in the Star Wars saga.

The latest entry, Fast and Furious 6 hits New Zealand cinemas this week, and it's a long way from the franchise's relatively humble beginnings.

While 2001's The Fast and The Furious was basically Point Break with cars instead of surfboards, the new film challenges the Bond films in terms of scale and action.

Like the game-changing Fast and Furious 5, part 6 plods along for the first three quarters of its running time without doing anything particularly interesting before wholly redeeming itself with a completely insane action climax.

The plot scales new heights of ridiculousness - Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) and their extended street-racing crew are recruited by Interpol Agent Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, sporting facial hair so shamelessly manicured it would make Prince blush) to take down a criminal mastermind based in London.

The set-up elevates the 'Ocean's Eleven-with-fast-cars' dynamic of Fast Five to a more 'A-Team-with-fast cars' kind of thing.

There's a Knight Boat-esque quality to how often their task requires our heroes to drive around in fast cars - canals; inlets and fjords have a large role to play in this film.

The extended, two-tiered action climax features the coolest stunt that has ever appeared in the series, and while I daren't spoil it, let's just say that it involves human bodies being hurled through the air at great speeds. It's the raddest moment of its kind since John Woo did this in 1997's Face/Off.

The release of the new film has inspired some fast and furious reflection in me, so I am now going to quickly and angrily cite what I consider to be the best and worst parts of the series.

Best film: 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious

It doesn't get much love, but I have an enduring soft-spot for the perennially underrated first sequel, for which Vin Diesel declined to appear. Rapper Tyrese Gibson stepped in to play Paul Walker's partner, and he brought a welcome action comedy wryness to the franchise. The Miami setting, laughable drug lord bad guy and surfeit of snappy one-liners makes the film feel like it was made in 1987. As a film-lover weaned on '80s action movies, this really spoke to me.

Plus this happens, which is great.

Worst film: 2009's Fast and Furious

This interesting article details how the rapturous audience response to Diesel's cameo at the end of 2006's The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift saved the franchise from a direct-to-DVD fate.

So after ignoring the main characters for the lean and mean Tokyo Drift, the producers decided to bring back the core four for part four - Walker; Diesel; Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez. The resulting film was pretty boring, and the car stunts among the stupidest of the series. But it made a decent amount of cash, and the stage was set for part five, which brought back several characters introduced in part two. Still with me?

Best chase: The finale heist from 2010's Fast and Furious 5

Although the preceeding four entries weren't exactly models of verisimilitude, the fifth film pushed the series into completely over-the-top territory, never more so than in the crazy finale which saw our heroes dragging a huge vault through the streets of Rio. Good times.

Worst Chase: The tunnel run in 2009's Fast and Furious

Putting aside the visual limitations inherent in setting a chase scene at night, the Mexican border tunnel run in Fast and Furious suffers from that film's overuse of generally poor CGI. A car chase in a tunnel may have sounded cool on paper, but it falls flat on screen.

Most underrated cast member: Tyrese Gibson

As I mentioned earlier, I loved Gibson in 2 Fast 2 Furious (just check out this awesome moment!). Gibson returned to the franchise with Fast Five, and while he's great in that, he truly shines in Fast and Furious 6. Gibson generates a surprising number of laughs in the film, and has become the series' underappreciated comedic heavy lifter. Give this man a spin-off!

Most overrated cast member: Vin Diesel

Look, I'm not a Diesel hater - how could I be? The man plays D&D for freaks sake. And I can appreciate how directly associated with the franchise he is in the audience's eyes. But I've always slightly resented him for thinking himself too good for part two, only to come crawling back to the franchise when his career needed a boost. Is this churlish of me?

Most confusing cast member: Sung Kang

Sung Kang broke his Fast and Furious cherry with Tokyo Drift, in which he played Han, a drift-racing mentor of sorts to that film's long-forgotten lead character Sean (played by the always-awesome Lucas Black).

When that film's director Justin Lin was hired to helm the follow-up, he brought Kang back as Han even though the character had died at the end of Tokyo Drift. Thus rendering Fast and Furious 4 a prequel to Tokyo Drift. Han also appeared in parts 5 and 6, so they're both prequels too.

To further complicate matters, Han (played by Kang) was first introduced in Lin's pre-Fast and Furious movie, Better Luck Tomorrow. Is Han the secret star of the franchise? Well, no. But it's nice to see the guy getting consistent work.

Most neglected definite article: The

Modern American cinema has long had an bizarre distaste for the word 'The' - why else would there be a film called Last Action Hero. Unfortunately, the Fast and Furious franchise is particularly guilty of this.

The first film took its glorious name from a 1955 chase film. The second film (2 Fast 2 Furious) heralded a new era of ridiculous sequel titles and even inspired a Simpsons joke. The third film (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) challenged marquees everywhere by reinstating the original title and adding a tag after a colon.

It was with the fourth entry that the series' vendetta against the word 'The' really started, ignoring the critical role it had to play in the series' success by titling itself simply Fast and Furious. The fifth film had the appealingly economical title Fast Five for its American release, but as usual the global market was treated like an idiot cousin and so in New Zealand we got the ultra bland title Fast and Furious 5, once again with no role to play for my beloved 'The'.

And now we have Fast and Furious 6, which appears to be the title in all English speaking countries. Maybe the studio forgot to have a meeting about it.

At the media screening I attended, the on-screen title was 'Furious 6', but I am told that was just for a preview print. I really like that title. It has a Dirty Dozen-vibe that completely fits the film. The Japanese title is Wild Speed: Euro Mission. I would've been happy with that too.

Amped for Fast and Furious 6? Favourite moments from series? Comment Below!

Dominic Corry

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

One of New Zealand's most vocal and enthusiastic film critics for over ten years, Dominic's cinematic opinions can also be heard on radio and seen on television. His list of favourite movies is always evolving, but is generally likely to feature The Lady Vanishes (1938); Vertigo (1958); The Parallax View (1972); Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978); Aliens (1986); Midnight Run (1989); Metropolitan (1990) and Primer (2002). He also reviews snack food.

Read more by Dominic Corry

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