At times, Fast & Furious 6 is a little unwieldy, saddled with a lot of added baggage, but it's still an extremely entertaining ride.
Fast & Furious 6 picks up after the successful Rio heist in Fast Five, with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew having given up their lives of crime, spending their hard-earned (read: stolen) money jet setting, wooing supermodels - or in the case of Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), adjusting to fatherhood. All seems well until Diplomatic Security Service Agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), tracks Toretto down, requesting the team's assistance in stopping an international terrorist - in exchange for full U.S. pardons.
Toretto agrees to help and the rest of his crew assemble in London, where they come face-to-face (or car-to-car) with infamous Ex-Special Forces soldier-turned-robber Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), along with his team of cold-blooded killers and expert gear-heads. With only days to stop Shaw from acquiring a dangerous piece of technology, Toretto and his team find themselves out-manned, out-gunned, and forced into taking desperate measures in order to stop the terrorist before he can sell his weapon to the highest bidder.
Director Justin Lin returns to helm Fast & Furious 6. The filmmaker joined the series back in 2006 with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and was instrumental in reinvigorating the franchise - ditching the niche car culture drama (dripping with machismo and scantily clad women) in favor of bombastic vehicle stunts. Fast Five was the most successful film in the series - delivering eye-popping driving sequences along with entertaining character moments - does the director up-the-ante with Fast & Furious 6?
Lin's latest entry successfully pushes the film series to bigger and more outrageous heights, sometimes at the expense of believability and compelling character drama. However, there's little doubt that franchise fans (along with anyone who enjoyed Fast Five) will be disappointed by Fast & Furious 6. There are a few eye-rolling moments and, as in prior entries, a very heavy-handed message about "family" (along with some awkward legacy story beats) but scene-to-scene the film offers a no-holds-barred flurry of memorable action and tongue-in-cheek character moments that will definitely entertain moviegoers - even if the plot doesn't hold up under close scrutiny.
The car stunts are bigger (and crazier) than ever before - easily outdoing the scale of the Rio "Vault" scene from the prior film. Moviegoers who had trouble suspending disbelief in Fast Five will face a similar challenge with Fast & Furious 6, but for anyone on-board with the series' premise, every outrageous sequence is punctuated with plenty of slick visuals and fun one-liners. The film's climax suffers a bit from overly-frantic green screen shots, making it hard to fully-appreciate individual altercations - which are sometimes lost in a blur of fast-moving scenery, punches, and gunplay. However, much like the rest of the film, the sum is often better than its individuals parts, and despite a few disorienting elements in the finale, the full sequence is still immensely exciting - and ranks among the series' most iconic moments.
This round, Dominic Toretto takes center stage (again) - in a personal story that sheds light on his past and the present challenge posed by Owen Shaw. Still, this is a Fast and Furious film, so any attempts at character development are delivered through on-the-nose dialogue about family, sacrifice, and faith. Similarly, the movie works extremely hard to balance franchise legacy elements with recent additions from Fast Five and, as a result, the core Toretto arc is punctuated with clumsy storytelling that can be awkward at times (but not outright distracting). It's all forgivable, but given the amount of time dedicated to the character's personal journey, emotional beats never quite deliver on their promises of compelling drama.
Walker's Brian O'Conner is marginalized this time, given a downright bizarre side-story that could have easily been left out of the film entirely (by adding one or two lines of exposition). The character remains a key member of the crew (and a counterpoint for Toretto), but with the addition of more interesting side-characters like Luke Hobbs (Johnson), O'Conner's contributions this round are some of the least memorable (or sensical). The dynamic between Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) help off-set the emotionally charged Toretto plot with fun banter as well as misadventures - and, as mentioned, Hobbs (along with partner Riley, played by Gina Carano) add plenty of bone-crushing fisticuffs to the mix.
Shaw, aided by a strong (but ice-cold) performance from Luke Evans, serves as a good foil for Toretto and his gang - showing how differences in the team leaders result in their respective successes and failures. Toretto's reliance on his family is his greatest vulnerability - whereas Shaw views his team members as nothing more than engine parts (each with their own expiration date). While the analogies get a bit heavy-handed by the end, the dynamic is interesting and serves as a fun opportunity to see Toretto and the team face a colder and more calculated set of doppelgangers.
That said, the Fast & Furious 6 story is full of plot holes and underdeveloped moments of emotional impact. The majority of them will speed by on an initial viewing, but once all of the twists have been revealed and moviegoers are left standing in the aftermath, it's a noticeably paper-thin plot. Worse yet, the film never takes the necessary time to make sense of several key character moments - sacrificing development, explanations, and/or emotional catharsis for the sake of keeping the film's pacing up. As stated, there's never really time to consider these shortcomings in the moment, but for a story that focuses so much on the importance of "family," the movie ultimately underserves a few featured members who are, apparently, less important than the high-octane thrills.
Of course, impactful drama has never been the primary goal of the Fast & Furious series - and for that reason, it's hard to imagine that returning viewers will be underwhelmed by the offerings in Fast & Furious 6. Lin has created a bigger (albeit not necessarily better) film that will please moviegoers looking for nitro-infused car stunts, amusing characters, and enormous action sequences. At times, Fast & Furious 6 is a little unwieldy, saddled with a lot of added baggage, but it's still an extremely entertaining ride.
Fast & Furious 6 runs 130 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language. Now playing in theaters.
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