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'Fast & Furious 6' driven by little more than action and effects

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

One thing you can say about “Fast Furious 6”: It makes you appreciate the talents of Dwayne Johnson.

Sharing the screen next to the monosyllabic, gravel-voiced and expressionless Vin Diesel, Johnson's skills become even more evident. He's simultaneously charming, tough and funny, and makes this labored sequel almost watchable.

Note the “almost.” Johnson is essentially going it alone here. He gets no help from co-stars such as the charisma-impaired Paul Walker or Michelle Rodriguez, whose once-promising career seems to have been reduced to playing variations on the same tough-girl role.

The movie picks up with “The Fast and Furious” gang after their last outing. Toretto (Diesel) and his band of street-racing criminals have retired and are living off the riches from their last heist. However, they fall back into action when special agent Hobbs (Johnson) calls the crew to track down an evil mastermind (Luke Evans), who works with Letty (Rodriguez), whom everyone thought was dead after their last caper.

The plot, which bobs around between London, Spain and Los Angeles, is more complicated than it needs to be. It's obvious that the whole enterprise merely exists for the action sequences.

It's hard to get excited about any of the onscreen happenings, because director Justin Lin can't seem to hit the right notes. Other issues include comedic moments that thud and dramatic ones that will make you wince.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the movie: The final scene sets up yet another sequel.

Randy Cordova is a movie critic for The Arizona Republic.

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