I’ve tried on a few occasions to watch the earlier movies in the Fast and Furious franchise but I could never get into it. The whole underground street racing scene has never appealed to me and the barrage of Skittles colored cars and bikini-clad women gyrating in slow motion got old quick. Now clearly the series has an ardent following as evident by the four total movies that fit this description. I just couldn’t count myself among them.
But in 2011 the series took a sharp turn in the right direction with the release of “Fast Five”. Gone were the street car racing raves and gratuitous skin shots (with the exception of one obligatory homage of sorts). Instead director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan made the film into a full-blown old school action picture only with vehicles as the main weapon of choice. It was a great move and I had a ton of fun with it.
So that brings us to “Fast and Furious 6” (yes, there have actually been six of these films). Lin And Morgan return as does franchise stalwarts Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. After making his franchise debut last time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns as do many other faces that franchise faithfuls are sure to recognize. The good news is “Fast and Furious 6” sticks to the same formula as the last picture. It’s loud, preposterous, and seemingly custom made for the summer popcorn season. I don’t think it’s as good as “Fast Five”, but it’s still a fuel-injected good time.
Once again an international location is chosen and our cast is thrown in it. Last time it was Rio. This time it’s London, England. Dom Toretto (Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Walker) are still wanted men. They’ve both settled down in the Canary Islands with hopes of putting their former lives behind them. But that quickly changes when DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) appears at Dom’s doorstep with news that an old acquaintance has appeared and is working for a powerful ex-military criminal named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Dom is persuaded to get his team back together and help Hobbs stop Shaw and find out about this mysterious person from his past.
There are several things about this film that are a given. Diesel grinds up his handful of lines in his familiar deep and gravelly voice. The Rock is given an endless supply of hammy tough guy one-liners and corny testosterone-laced analogies. And Paul Walker still has that sheepish and boyish vibe going. The rest of Dom’s crew aren’t asked to do any heavy lifting and that’s a good thing. Neither Sung Kang or Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are particularly good actors and Tyrese Gibson’s comic act grew old quick. But none of these performances are why people will go to see this film.
But I do want to talk about the two newcomers to the Fast and Furious world. I’ve just recently noticed him but I quite like Luke Evans. He gives a rock solid performance here as the main baddie. While his character is really nothing more than a thief and his overall motivations are shallow, Evans brings a pretty menacing quality to the role. And then there’s Gina Carano. Can I just go ahead and say I LOVE Gina Carano? Once again she’s tough as nails and she holds her own among the macho types. Just like Steven Soderbergh in the movie “Haywire”, director Justin Lin keeps her within her comfort zone and never stretches her beyond her bounds. She’s one of the high points for me and she gets her scenes to shine.
But enough about the acting. “Fast and Furious 6” is a straightforward action picture built upon some ludicrous yet spectacular set pieces and more flipping, jumping, and crashing of cars than you can count. The movie aims to be even more outlandish than the previous film and it succeeds. But it still keeps you glued to the screen as the vehicular mayhem amps up with each big sequence. Sure it’s sometimes dumb and always over the top. Some of the dialogue is high-end cheese at its finest and the jokes often fall flat. But it still delivers the pedal to the metal, “ride or die” adrenaline rush that has made it such a guilty pleasure.
I still say this film isn’t as fluid or as polished (if you can call any of these movies polished) as “Fast Five”. But I appreciate that the movie never pretends to be anything other than what it is. The filmmakers know the type of movie they’re making and there is no pretension or artifice at all. That’s key for the audience as well. If you know what kind of movie this is, you’ll know what to expect. Don’t think you’re getting a film with deeper, thought-provoking themes and top-tier performances. Understand that this film and this series is all about the wild ride and if you’re willing to get into the car, you’re going to have a good time.