Film review: Beware of Mr Baker and Fast and Furious 6 - Furious Ginger packs a punch, but Vin Diesel is out of gas


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The Independent Culture

A documentary about a rock drummer might seem more suited to BBC4 than to your local cinema, but most rock-docs don't open with their subject – in this case, Ginger Baker – cracking the director across the nose with his walking stick. Not a man who has ever needed an excuse to assault someone, Baker is incensed to learn that said director, Jay Bulger, is planning to interview some of his old associates, but in the event he had nothing to worry about.

Beware of Mr Baker boasts an extraordinary line-up of colleagues (Eric Clapton, John Lydon) and admirers (Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich), and while they all agree that he has been "fairly consistently horrible to people", none of them disputes that he's "the greatest drummer in the world", and none of them can quite bring themselves not to love him. Together they tell a tragicomic tale of riotous bad behaviour and musical exploration to enthral both aficionados and the indifferent.

We hear about Baker's Blitz childhood, and his apprenticeship on the 1950s London jazz scene, where he was introduced to heroin and African rhythms, both on the same night. We see him looking like a mad-eyed, skull-faced, flame-haired court jester, providing the thunderous beat for two 1960s supergroups, Cream and Blind Faith. No documentary about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll has had more of all three ingredients, but at this stage Beware of Mr Baker is just getting going.

It follows him to Nigeria, where he built a studio a decade before Sting and Paul Simon found Africa in their atlases, and it keeps track of his travels around the globe. Along the way, the film makes a cogent case for Baker as an uncompromising pioneer, but it doesn't ignore the wreckage he leaves in his wake, including many betrayed and abandoned children.

Bulger illustrates his rollercoastering story with animated charcoal drawings, as well as a trove of priceless archive footage, but the heart of the documentary is the seventy-something Baker's own crotchety, poetic, expletive-filled way with an anecdote. Considering how many insults he spits at Bulger, the director was lucky to escape with only a gash across his nose, but his sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-poignant film is worth the pain. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, it ain't.

The Fast and the Furious franchise has raked in $1.5bn over the past 12 years. It started as an action movie in which undercover cop (Paul Walker) investigates a muscle-bound road racer (Vin Diesel), but the budget, cast and scope have swollen with each episode. Fast and Furious 6 (*) (the definite article fell off along the way) reaches the level of wannabe Bond blockbuster, complete with international locales and a diabolical cyber-terrorist (Luke Evans).

I suppose it offers its fans value for money, in that every fight and car chase seems to last for hours, but for me F&F6 ranks alongside global warming, Middle-Eastern wars and Jeremy Clarkson as a reason to rue the invention of the internal combustion engine. It's not the macho dialogue or the creaky acting or the tacky sexism that is off-putting so much as the absence of plausibility. In one scene, Diesel takes a bullet to his chest at point-blank range. In the next scene, he's removing the bullet himself, with tweezers, and covering the hole with a plaster. But nothing in the film is less credible than the racing sequences set in central London, where the roads are so empty that Diesel can hurtle around at 100mph. I hope he paid the Congestion Charge first.

Critic's Choice

European stars Emilie Dequenneinset, (Rosetta) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) will wring your heart in the terrific family drama Our Children, from director Joachim Lafosse. There's high skullduggery on the high seas, Danish-style, in the nautical nail-biter A Hijacking, from Borgen writer Tobias Lindholm.