When the sixth installment of the Fast & Furious franchise plays to its strengths (fast cars, good cinematography, beautiful women kicking butt, and some terrific action sequences) it works well. Sadly, we are also forced to sit through the franchise’s usual hamfisted attempts at dramatic tension and clichéd (not to mention extremely corny) dialogue which give us a mopey Vin Diesel for the first half-hour of the film and an inexplicable subplot involving Paul Walker in prison that doesn’t so much shit in the face of logic as refuse to exist the concept exists at all.
Director Justin Lin reassembles the team from the last film as Hobbs (Dwayane “It’s Okay To Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson) recruits Toretto (Diesel) and his drivers to take down a mercenary group of high-speed thieves attacking military targets. For Hobbs its about using the lesser of two evils to stop a greater one. For Toretto its about bringing a lost member of his family back home when Hobbs informs him that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is alive and working for the murderous leader (Luke Evans) of the group.
Rodriguez’s return was teased at the end of the last film, but sadly Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan go for the least-inspired explanation possible as to what Letty has been up to in the years since we last saw her. The franchise’s longest running female star, Jordana Brewster, also draws the short straw as she’s offered little more to do than sit on the sidelines this time around. Thankfully Gal Gadot and Gina Carano (as Hobbs’ new assistant) are given much more to do in the action scenes and more than hold their own with their male co-stars. Carano, who was out of her depth in Steven Soderbergh‘s Haywire comes off much better this time around, and her fight with Letty is the best one-on-one fight sequence of the movie.
Fast & Furious 6 is the kind of movie where a tank can suddenly appear out of the middle of nowhere and not feel out of place. It’s the kind of action flick where heroes fly through the air making impossible rescues and the comic relief characters (Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang) are constantly screwing up or getting their butts handed to them until everything is on the line. It’s also the type of film filled with some beautifully shot race and stunt sequences, allowing the camera to pull back and capture the film’s best moments (nearly all of which take place at dangerously high speeds).
The latest, but certainly not last, of the franchise isn’t great, but (to be honest) none of the films have been. Admist some forgivable (and some not so forgivable) mistakes, Lin makes some inspired choices including casting one of the thugs on the other crew who size dwarfs both Diesel and The Rock and providing an amazing final scene to set-up the next movie. For a film I sat on the fence with for most of is running time, the cars, the women, and this honest-to-God holy shit moment are enough to give it a marginally positive review. No, Fast & Furious 6 isn’t great, but it does enough of what it does well to offer fans on okay time and the movies (and salivate over the promise of what is still yet to come).