It had to happen eventually. Hollywood, or more accurately the half-dozen or so studios that make up the majority of its output, has seemingly realized that there might, just might, be more to life than turning every comic book that’s ever been doodled into a vacuous, overwrought blockbuster. The sixth installment of the Fast & Furious franchise is out this week. It will be a vacuous, overwrought blockbuster, too – but the right kind. And it could represent the rebirth of action cinema.
I say ‘could’, because it needs to make a giant pile of money first – and that’s why you need to go and watch it. Don’t go begrudgingly, though. If it’s anything like its predecessor, it promises to be an awesome, hair-raising mixture of preposterous car stunts, oiled muscly bodies and random bouts of artillery fire. And for some of us, that’s what cinema is all about.
The new Jason Statham vehicle, written and directed by Boaz “Remember the Titans” Yakin, starts with not one but two solid premises. In one plot strand, we meet Statham’s character Luke Wright – a NYPD detective turned binman/cagefighter – who angers the boss of a Russian gang by failing to throw a fight. These Russians have a taste for drama, so rather than killing Luke, they kill his wife, and promise him that anyone else he gets close to will get the same treatment, condemning him to a life of itinerant solitude. Meanwhile, somewhere in China, the mathematical genius and eidetic memory of an 11 year old schoolgirl called Mei (newcomer Catherine Chan) catch the eye of New York City’s Chinese gangsters, who put her to work as the ultimate unhackable mob-accounting computer and Johnny-Mnemonic style data courier. In the early stages, as the film cuts restlessly back and forth between the two storylines before bringing them together, you might wonder if all this isn’t a bit overcomplicated for a Jason Statham movie – if it isn’t all going to rather get in the way of the simple business of lining up as many people as possible for The Stathe to kick in the head or shoot in the bollocks.