“Fast and Furious 6” Movie Review

     I really never thought much about the “Fast and Furious” series until 2011’s “Fast Five”.  With the first film, “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), being a loose remake of “Point Break” and the three sequels that followed; “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003), “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”(2006), and “Fast and Furious” (2009), leaving much to be desired, I was pleasantly surprised with the “Ocean’s 11” style plot line of “Fast Five” and felt the creative action sequences were some of the best of the year.  In short, “Fast Five” rejuvenated a stagnant franchise for Universal, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a major new character.  I never thought at the conclusion of “Fast Five” the series had run out of gas, especially since the post credits scene brought forth an interesting new sub plot in that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) had somehow survived her demise in the fourth film.  For certain, I felt director Justin Lin and his team would be unable to out do the wow factor of the fifth film with what is now the sixth film in the franchise, “Fast and Furious 6”.  I was wrong.

     Again, Lin serves up an amazing array of action set pieces sure to leave any willing audience member with their jaw dropping to the floor.  Sure, the action and general story line in “Fast 6” is at times preposterous and I’ve always felt films which portray themselves as reality should stay grounded there.  I suppose nothing in “Fast 6” is impossible, but lets say some of the stunts are highly unlikely to even by attempted by one of sound mind.  That being said, I haven’t been entertained more this year by a film as “Fast 6” is the pure definition of a summer popcorn flick.  If you’ve read my reviews often, you may be thinking there’s a little inconsistency in my thus far positive comments.  Typically I dismiss these types of pictures as eye candy for the simple minded, while poking holes in everything from a bad script to horrible character development.  For once, I can make an argument as to what allows these types of films to have success in what is now it’s sixth (going on seventh) time around.

     When a television show airs, an average season for a one hour show will contain 12 to 13 episodes per season.  In that time span, viewers become well acquainted with the characters and as their individual arcs develop over the course of the season, we tend to care about their fate.  Countless people spend time by the water cooler each day at work sharing their thoughts on what’s happened to their favorite characters on the various shows they watch.  Well, guess what?  The “Fast and Furious series of films now clocks in at well over 12 hours of running time, equal to an entire season on television.  What this means to me is the characters in “Fast 6” need no introduction.  We already know them and we have already formed our opinion about each character.  This bodes well for “Fast 6” because with each twist of fate, the audience will care what happens.  Anyone can relate to the themes of family and loyalty preached throughout the series and many audiences see themselves in what is a very diverse cast.  Put simply, these characters are well developed and “Fast 6” excels in this area well before someone climbs into a muscle car and races for pink slips.

     “Fast 6” begins right where the last film left off.  Toretto (Vin Diesel) and O’Connor (Paul Walker) are living a simple life in the Canary Islands, away from any possible extradition for crimes they are wanted for around the world and in the U.S..  When a highly skilled team of mercenaries pulls off a series of heists in London, led by their mastermind, Shaw (Luke Evans),  Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), begins tracking them without success.  Hobbs realizes he needs the help of a professional driving crew to aid him in catching Shaw and finds Toretto in an attempt to persuade him and his team to join in.  Hobbs receives information about one of Shaw’s team members and discovers her identity as Letty.  He uses this as a way to get Toretto to participate and also tells them he will arrange pardons for all of their crimes if they are able to catch Shaw.

     Much of the initial 90 minutes is spent following up leads in an attempt to find Shaw’s location and determine where he will strike next.  Lin saves the best for last as the final 45 minutes are dedicated to two action set pieces that amp up the adrenaline and raise the standards for the series.  Lin first stages a scene where Toretto’s crew attempts to take down Shaw on a freeway as Shaw rampages through vehicles in a tank.  Later, Lin tops that with a car chase along side a cargo airplane going full speed on a runway with cars dangling below and several fist fights going on inside the plane and on top of vehicles.  Highly imaginative and nothing you have seen before, I assure you of that.  Aside from the regular cast of characters, Lin provides two nice additions in Gino Carano (Hobbs’ partner Riley) and Johannes Taslim (Shaw’s goon Jah whom you may remember as the main bad guy in “The Raid”).  Both Carano and Taslim are given ample time to show off their incredible martial arts skills in a variety of scenes throughout.  Carano especially shows off much improved acting chops compared to her debut outing last year in “Haywire” and her fight with Michelle Rodriguez is one for the ages.  She might have a future in this genre after all.

     As “Fast 6” comes to a close and the audience is given a second to catch it’s collective breath, Lin pulls off one last amazing piece of filmmaking.  Mid way through the end credits, we are treated to a scene on the streets of Tokyo.  A new villain emerges and immediately you become excited for the seventh installment due out next summer.  I won’t spoil who it is here, but save to say Universal’s biggest franchise is far from over and may become one of the longest running and most successful film series ever when it’s all said and done.  “Fast 6” , with it’s explosive action and built in likability for it’s characters, excels far beyond expectation and left me craving more.