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. "Fast & Furious 6"

If there was ever a movie franchise that had to live up to its title AND to outdo its last sequel, it's "Fast & Furious." With six now in the can, it shows it's still got gas in the tank and that people, given the right speed, can fly and withstand the landing.

With the gravity factor being constantly challenged by the more and more impossible car-crash choreography, it's surprising that director Justin Lin ("Fast Five"), on his fourth ride, brings it in for a mere $34.5M production dollars. Scads of money to be made in what has become more comic strip than earthbound logic.

Last seen, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, "Find Me Guilty") and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker, "Flags of Our Fathers"), leaders of a gang of speed drivers, were in Rio. That outing proved lucrative, winding up with cool millions which, when divided by Dom's sterling sense of fairness, made his team of crime-fighting speedsters wealthy. Now, living the good life each to his own idea of it, they're all of the mind that their dreams have been attained and that the old life is behind them. And, then, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island") shows up, buffer than ever.

For those who may not recall, Hobbs is the federal agent forever on the trail of these desperados who have committed as many crimes as they have auto parts. Yet, his enthusiasm to arrest them seems tempered by the fact that their antics have brought many a villain to justice. Besides, though both he and Dom are buffed to the max, Hobb's muscles are bigger. At their level, however, this is not an issue.

In any case, they're out of his reach as long as they don't step foot in the States. But, now, he needs Dom and his team, with their particular set of skills, to help him stop Shaw (Luke Evans), a British terrorist/speedster/martial artist who is one component away from putting together a world-busting weapon. Offer in hand, he appears at Dom's digs in the Canary Islands. The offer? Help him get Shaw and they all receive pardons. Imagine -- rich and in the clear! They're in.

The cast is complete, plus a few newcomers. Hobbs appears with tough and sexy Riley (Gina Carano, "Haywire") as his investigative partner, another special talent as a highly competent female martial artist (who can act on the level required). The original characters besides Diesel as team leader Dom are his partner, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), his squeeze, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, "Avatar"), Mia (Jordana Brewster, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning"). Roman (Tyrese Gibson, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"), the ever-cool Han (Sung Kang, "Bullet to the Head"), Tej (Ludacris, "RocknRolla") and newcomer Gisele (Gal Gadot, "Knight and Day," third from left) complete the superdriver team in the cause of saving the world. No challenge too great; no challenge unanswered.

By, now, the group is a family of comrades, enjoying idle chatter and common purpose as each other's strengths at the wheel and 100% committment in combat are totally known and fully respected. The relationships are a major source of fan loyalty, forming a human basis to the harrowing action.

Welshman Luke Evans ("The Three Musketeers") gives us a villain up to the task of fending off his pursuers and bringing them to the edge of disaster time and time again. He's a scary guy and he's got Letty on his side. Which is the first big surprise of the story given that she was given up as dead in Rio ("Fast Five").

The movie runs 130 minutes, or two hours and ten. As with almost all big action pics, this creates problems of originality and the preservation of heightened tension. Thus, we get one or two too many street races through the throngs and stop lights of Tokyo and line deliveries at idle speed. The crispness comes and goes like a faulty carburetor. How much better this would have been at 100 minutes, but that's the current world of movie commerce. The paying fans demand excess at least equal to the cost of admission but it's not good for a thrill-a-minute story impact.

Beside running time, the excess is also in the sound volume and the iron destined for the crusher and sale by the pound, plus pursuits with death-defying dynamics at chase speeds. But the big moola at the end that fans will be obsessing about for days after seeing it brings in an unexpected monster as a getaway vehicle for Shaw. It's the completion of "Fast & Furious's" promise to go one better than that flying train wreck last time out. Fine, even if the series has now gone from racing strip to comic strip. Wham!

All of that is accomplished, in very large part, to what you can do with CGI nowadays and, in this case, with vehicles on wheels of all weights and power. But if you want to enjoy this movie, leave your sense of logic and what you know about the physics of gravity in the lobby, dude.

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                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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