One thing every sequel should strive to do is improve upon its predecessor, which is also something nearly every sequel fails to deliver on. But sometimes in order to succeed, it helps when your predecessors already started at the bottom of the barrel, leaving the subsequent sequels nowhere to go but up.
Somehow transformed into one of biggest film franchises of all time (and winner of the most ridiculous title continuity issues in film history), the Fast & Furious films have beaten the odds, and that is exactly what has happened with the latest entry in the long running series of car/heist flicks. Fast & Furious 6 has succeeded in topping its predecessors in nearly every conceivable way. Read the full review after the break.
Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and the rest of the crew have decided to leave their life of crime in the rear-view mirror after walking away with over 100 million dollars of a Brazilian drug lords money. As they all attempt to start new lives, their assorted pasts once again come to haunt them when Dom is visited by special agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, looking as though he had just stepped off the set of G.I. Joe), who has information on another crew of criminals led by the cunning Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
This new crew of criminals also happens to include Dom’s former girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who was presumed dead long ago. It doesn’t take much convincing until Dom accepts Hobbs’ offer to assemble his old crew for one last job, a job that will provide them all with their long sought-after freedom and an opportunity to get their lives back. Soon they are on their way to Paris, where Toretto and Hobbs will work together to take down Shaw and rescue Letty from his evil clutches.
Back in 2011, the Fast & Furious franchise got a much needed jump start in the form of Fast Five, a film which transformed a franchise that took itself way too seriously with poorly developed characters and asinine plotlines. It drastically shifted gears into a series about poorly developed characters, asinine plotlines and a heaping amount of absurd action that not only knew it was over the top and ridiculous but took great pride in that fact. That was it, that was the moment when the Fast & Furious franchise came into its own, when it finally decided to stop treating its silly premise of living life at a quarter mile at a time as though any of it really mattered, and fully embraced its own special brand of stupidity with open arms.
Add in the confident direction by Justin Lin, who has proven that he knows how to film vehicular mayhem, and what you get is a franchise that was well on its way to the pick-a-part but has now become one of the biggest film franchises of all time. The latest film in the franchise, Fast & Furious 6 (or Furious 6 if you are going by the opening title to the film) carries on the fine tradition set by Fast Five and kick-starts the action into high gear almost immediately, and it is all the better for it.
After some quick introductions to some familiar faces such as Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), we are flung across the globe as our favorite street racers/thieves tear up the streets of Paris, engaging in one exhilarating car chase after another. They face off against Shaw and his gang of expert thieves, leaving you breathless in the process, all the while establishing its rather weak and cliche-ridden story as quickly and as forgettable as possible. But that is part of the charm of the Fast & Furious series; its sort of self-awareness.
That it actually knows its story is more of a means to an end is what makes these films work. All that matters is getting its large cast of characters behind the wheel in increasingly outrageous stunts (that so happen to use a whole lot of CG effects) and defy all forms of common sense and every law of physics known to man. This series abandoned reality long ago and this sixth entry takes things to a whole new degree of ridiculous excess with a series of action scenes that are just as exciting and imaginative as they are completely illogical and implausible.
Being that these films have become more action oriented over the years instead of being just simple car porn for motorheads, it is expected that each new entry will top the next in terms of its action set pieces and Justin Lin has somehow found a way to stomp all expectations and deliver some impressively chaotic action unlike anything this series has seen before. From watching Toretto and the gang attempt to take down a rampaging tank on an elevated highway with nothing more than their inferior sports cars, to a multi-car chase through the city streets of Paris and in the film’s most incredible action set piece where they try to prevent a jumbo cargo jet from taking off across the world’s longest stretch of tarmac, there are no shortage of jaw dropping stunts and outrageous action sequences to behold.
Fans of the series that have kept up with each new installment are also in for a treat, because there is no shortage of callbacks to previous films either. This is without a doubt some of most intricate timeline shuffling ever seen in a series that has gone on this long, and for as little thought that has been put into each film’s individual plot, somehow and for some reason it has never ceased to amaze at how well each character’s personal journey has been tracked and kept consistent across each entry.
To explain anymore would be to go into heavy spoiler territory, but let it be known that Fast & Furious 6 ties into the previous films in some surprisingly intelligent ways that seem more than a little out of place for a series that requires as little thinking as possible, but is welcome none-the-less.
As for the characters, this is without a doubt the most jam packed entry into the series yet, with nearly everyone accounted for and some new faces introduced as well. However, it is perplexing that Eva Mendes (who was in the second film and the end credits scene for the fifth one) is still absent. Perhaps that is a good thing though since there seems to be an over abundance of characters as it is with new ones being added all the time, this time with Gina Carano being the new kid on the block and of course the much publicized return of Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, who most assumed died in the fourth film. Well, don’t you feel silly for thinking that now?
While this sort of flip flopping with character deaths is beginning to feel more like a daytime soap opera than just a clever sleight of hand (Han died in the third film but has been in each sequel since then!), one can’t argue against how well it all works with the continued complexity of this insanely ridiculous world these characters exist in. That being said, just about everyone gets some good face-time with the least interesting characters, Elena (Elsa Pataky) and Mia unceremoniously pushed off to the sidelines taking care of Brian and Mia’s newborn for the majority of the film.
If this is all sounding a bit too positive, then you have to put this review, and this franchise in general, into perspective for just a second. These films in no way can be considered as anything other than the blissfully guilty pleasures that they are. Turning off ones brain doesn’t even begin to describe the mental state one has to be in to not give in to the tendency to rip their highly flawed narratives apart piece by piece. Take for instance the motivations behind Shaw’s ultimate plan.
His core goal is to make something called the Nightshade by stealing military components that come together to build something that supposedly shuts down a city’s power for a 24 hour period. Does any of that matter? Not at all, and the film knows that, which is why it is hardly relevant to those legion of fans out there that have come out to see their favorite actors perform the craziest stunts ever seen in the coolest cars available. Just about the only thing missing at this point is a knowing wink or glance to audience to let us know they are in on the joke.
Those that absolutely need a story or characters that are more than a series of cliches and shallow characterizations should look elsewhere because these films were never meant for you. You really have to judge these films for what they are and what they set out to do, which is to provide simple popcorn entertainment and nothing more. They aren’t exactly critic proof, but they can’t be held up to the same scrutiny as other films that rely on quality acting and a solid script. Instead they rely solely on big stunts and ridiculous action and on those merits alone the film is a success.
All its inherent faults aside, Fast & Furious 6 is vehicular warfare at its absolute best and that is all anyone ever expected from it. So on opening day, if you are either a fan or just someone looking to shutdown their brain for a couple of hours, head out to your local multiplex, by those tickets, strap yourself in and prepare yourself for a fun and exhilarating ride that is both fast and furiously entertaining.