‘Fast and Furious 6′ Review
'Fast Five' attempted - and quite successfully I might add - a reboot of sorts for the entire 'Fast and Furious' franchise, turning a series of movies about car racing into one exciting heist film. It was big and brash and sweaty and a complete success. So where do you go from there? 'Fast and Furious 6' attempts to answer that question by adding an -er suffix to all those adjectives above. Bigger, brasher, sweatier.
'Fast and Furious 6' is like 'Fast Five' on nitrous - director Justin Lin hits that proverbial turbo boost to go bigger, faster, stronger - and at times, that is a great thing. But when the NOS runs out, the drag race just turns into a drag.
After the events of 'Fast Five,' Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is relaxing in a breezy, oceanside property that wouldn't look out of place on the cover of Travel + Leisure. He sexes up his new girlfriend (Elsa Pataky, with considerably less to do in this film than in 'Fast Five') and monkeys around with a rusty old car engine on his porch. He may be a little young for AARP, but retired life seems to suit Toretto well. This is until Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) shows up looking for help. "And why should I help you?" huffs Toretto. Because, duh, he's got proof that your dead girlfriend (Letty, a scowling Michelle Rodriguez) ain't all that dead. In fact, she's alive. And working with "The Bad Guys."
And with that 'Fast and Furious 6' revs its engine, slams on the gas and our team is reassembled. (Yes, even Brian O'Conner who leaves his newborn baby boy and wife home while he goes to fight dangerous international criminals in the name of discovering whether his buddy's ex-girlfriend may or may not still be alive.) They're chasing down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a Brit who's about to get his hands on some super-weapon thing and it's really dangerous and MacGuffin and we've got to stop him! and so on and so forth. The less thought you put into the motivations behind Shaw's plan, the better. Things go crash, know that.
But before we can do that, we have setup. And then some more setup. Of particular delight to Lin and writer Chris Morgan is the relationship between Dom and Letty, who was left for dead at the end of 'Fast & Furious.' She's got amnesia; he still loves her; but what about his new girlfriend; why is she partnering with the bad guys? If this all sounds like an episode of 'The Fast, The Furious and The Restless' that's because that's exactly what it feels like. Pardon us if we want our Vin Diesel punching things and grunting out his lines, not meet-cuteing with a girl under a bridge. When the camera swoops repeatedly around Dom and Letty as they share an intimate moment, it's supposed to come off as a tender moment but the scene goes on endlessly (and pointlessly) and instead feels just goofy (and when a scene stands out as goofy in a 'Fast and Furious' movie, you know something's amiss).
Where 'Fast Five' required almost little-to-no knowledge of previous 'Fast and Furious' mythology, 'Fast and Furious 6' seems to almost revel in it. There are a multitude of callbacks to the previous films including returning characters ("Hey, it's.....that...guy!") and continuing plotlines that are nothing more than fan service. Sadly the only service provided is to make audiences feel confused, indifferent or both.
But here's the good thing: though the movie as a whole can't quite stand up to the majesty that was 'Fast Five' (an almost perfect mix of the ridiculous and the sublime), the action sequences in 'Fast and Furious 6' are both bigger and better than anything you've seen in the franchise to date. Watching Diesel launch himself into a flying head butt like a big bald missile is just one of the many joys of the last act of the film, a breathless 20-minute brawl/chase aboard a massive cargo plane. (Another standout: a brutal girlfight between Rodriguez and former MMA superstar Gina Carano, a delightful addition as Johnson's right-hand woman.)
While romance and drama have never been the strong suit of the 'Fast' films, over-the-top action is and 'Fast and Furious 6' absolutely delivers on that promise. It's almost impossible not to giggle and hoot along in glee during some of the film's spectacular action sequences. Just look at the photo above - it's former male model Tyrese flying from a car about to be crushed by a tank to a racecar speeding down a highway. (Spoiler alert: he makes it.) It's so good at doing what it does best that it makes the rest of the film seem stuck in neutral.
While Diesel and Walker are technically the stars of the film, Mr. The Rock once again proves he's one of the most charismatic actors working in Hollywood. He's hulking mass of cool wrapped in Under Armour. If he wasn't returning for 'Fast and Furious 7' it could easily be believed that this film is setting Hobbs up to be the rightful heir to the franchise. Evans isn't given much to do with his generic British bad guy character but ably menaces our crew.
Part of the endless enjoyability of 'Fast Five' was that it never took itself too seriously. Perhaps owing to the success of that film, 'Fast and Furious 6' starts taking itself a little too seriously; an almost startling accomplishment considering the aforementioned use of Vin Diesel's head as a projectile weapon. When it's good, 'Fast and Furious 6' is great, but when it's not, it just runs out of gas.
Mike Sampson is the Editor-in-Chief of ScreenCrush.com.
'Fast and Furious 6' opens in theaters on May 24.