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Go Faster

 Posted: 9:40 AM May 30, 2013

The "Fast & Furious" fossil-fuel franchise, now 12 years old, has defied all odds, and after a tune-up post-"Furious 2," has hit the streets with full-on, pedal-to-the-metal enthusiasm and does in spades exactly what it's intended to do: go really, really fast. Zoom zoom. Teens love these movies (worldwide, the flicks have combined to earn nearly $2 billion).

Anywhere there are wide, glistening streets — from L.A. to Tokyo to Rio to Spain — the "Furious" pit crew is in hot pursuit, of each other or the bad guys. Race you for my car, if you got the juice — meaning your tricked-out ride must be hooked up to a bottle of nitrous-oxide that can turn the shiny Detroit slab of motorized beef (or a Japanese javelin) into a levitating rocket.

Plot? Seriously? Not to worry. It never gets in the way of the action. And "Furious" is all about riveting action. To include a symphony of deep-throated, big-bore, jacked-up, muscle-bound V-8 engines begging to be turned on and turned loose.

Fast and Furious 6

130 min

Rated PG-13

The Iceman

93 min

Rated R

Given all that (sure it's formulaic), "Fast & Furious 6," with its complete crew of rebel street racers — to include Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriquez), Han (Sung Kan) — doesn't disappoint.

All of the regulars are now living somewhere tropical, enjoying the loot ($100 million) snatched from a drug lord in "Fast Five." Life is good, but a bit bland. Until the fed Hobbs shows up. He needs the outfit's help.

A bad guy is out to do some global damage, and Hobbs is short of personnel.

No matter the tranquility of the Canary Islands, or the fact that Brian and mate Mia have a new baby, the collective "family" has to step up. Plus the audience knows that it's adrenalin time. Let the games begin. And there's the issue of Letty that gets Dom's attention. Don't ask.

So, once again Dom's 1969 Daytona Charger becomes a cast member, and the "Fast & Furious 6" demolition derby begins, the full-flight sequences astonishing, gravity canceled, all while avoiding personal injury (no one ever goes to the hospital; not even for a bruise).

The plan: go fast, crank up the RPMs, brake hard, pause for some dialogue (wooden), go much faster, rinse and repeat.

Just when you thought that the franchise may have run out of mojo, well "Fast & Furious 6" flips the nitrous-oxide switch and manages to once again offer up a fun, engaging, entertaining film that should come with a disclaimer: Kids, don't try any of this in your neighborhood. These films, in the aggregate, are a seminar about how not to drive if you're 16. And no doubt they cause insurance brokers to wake in the dead of night, hearts palpitating, hoping that the newbie drivers they're covering are watching something from Pixar.

As if.

"The Iceman"

There's little to recommend "The Iceman" other than the performances, beginning with Michael Shannon as the contract killer, Richard Kuklinski. His portrayal establishes Shannon as a first-rate if improbable lead actor who can transform his massive face and stature into characters that have a powerful verisimilitude.

"The Iceman" is based on the true story of a mobbed-up New Jersey introvert who began bootlegging porn for gangsters out of New Jersey and soon graduates to taking contract hits for a local mobster, Roy DeMeo (Ray Liota).

What makes Kuklinski remarkable is that while he is a stone-cold psychopath, he also is a caring family man, married to Deborah (Winona Ryder) and the father of two sweet girls.

The duality of his life almost is inconceivable, yet he moves seamlessly from a grim, remorseless world of violence to hearth and kin.

While it's likely that audiences may have reached the saturation point regarding sociopaths, and there is nothing really complex about any of the characters other than Kuklinski, "The Iceman," for a certain type of movie buff, will appeal. The sense of foreboding is sustained throughout, and the photography is perfect — most of the film shot in dark, frayed tones, most scenes the equivalent of an empty urban street at midnight, shadowed, uninviting, the detritus of city life strewn everywhere.

Standing alone on that street is Shannon, giving his best performance since "Take Shelter." And it wouldn't surprise if he receives a nomination for what proves, in the end, to be a relentless character study.

— Chris Honoré

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