"The Fast and the Furious" franchise has been a mixed bag, with both good ("Fast Five") and bad ("The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift") films. With "Fast & Furious 6" being the seventh overall movie in the series, its mediocrity was all but guaranteed. Surprisingly, though, "F&F6" is the strongest movie thus far.
Picking up shortly after where "Fast Five" ended, "F&F6" starts with the team scattered around the globe, enjoying its millions. Federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) approaches Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in the Canary Islands in Spain, where he's been living in the lap of luxury. Hobbs convinces Toretto to gather the crew to take down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who is accumulating gadgets that will combine to become an EMP Voltron that wipes out the power in a location for 24 hours. Since Shaw is Evil, he plans to use this device for very Evil things, and he must be stopped. Shaw's crew drives super-fast, armor-plated flip cars, so any vehicles that collide with them go flying into the air. Obviously, the team to stop him is Toretto & Co.
Shaw's crew also has Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who was presumed dead in "Fast & Furious 4." Before you cry, "Spoiler!" this information was divulged at the end of "Fast Five" and it's been in "F&F6" every trailer for the past six months. Naturally, Ortiz is the real reason that Toretto agrees to the job.
The action does the title proud. A lot of the action is quite brutal, and you'll spend most of the movie either wincing and uttering "Ouch!" or covering your mouth and being taken aback by the latest balls-to-the-wall stunt. Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Johnson, and Rodriguez perform some pretty amazing stunts, though the best one, in my opinion, is a tag-team move by Diesel and Johnson that's reminiscent of the latter's WWE days.
The trademark car races are present and accounted for, and the vehicles look and sound good. The bad guys have gadgets that take over the computers in modern-day cars, so the team acquires some old-school muscle cars. The deep rumble of these engines is innately satisfying.
While the protagonists don't drag a bank vault through city streets as they did in "Fast Five," the gimmick in this film is equally as insane. The heroes try to prevent Shaw from escaping in a cargo plane by tethering their cars to it. For this action sequence, there was so much occurring at once that I didn't have a clear idea of who was where, the location of each vehicle, and whether the good guys had the upper hand or were about to experience a beatdown. Regardless, it is riveting action, and you won't want to peel your eyes away.
Riley (Gina Carano), a new agent who works with Hobbs, engages in some stunning fights with Ortiz. It's no surprise that, as an MMA fighter, Carano fights well. She's pretty, but she has zero screen presence. She repeats her lines, but it comes off very flat, much like it did in her breakthrough film, "Haywire." By contrast, Rodriguez isn't a superb actress, but the camera loves her, and even though you can't shake the feeling that she isn't acting but just repeating lines as herself, the screen still crackles.
Johnson is his usual charismatic self, and he's easily believable as a military guy. (The biceps don't hurt.) Diesel plays to his strengths and is the honorable patriarch of the makeshift family. Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner is a doting dad and loving husband now, and his law enforcement days feel like they were a lifetime ago. Evans is completely one-dimensional as the antagonist, but he serves his purpose. (Is it a requirement that bad guys have British accents?)
For the most part, the comedy and interplay between characters is good. There are a few groaners, but there are plenty of funny moments to make up for them, and the editing is skillfully done. (There's not much to excuse Ludacris' awful Spanish, but it's just one scene, and I'll try to not hold it against him.) This is the last "Fast & Furious" film with Justin Lin at the helm, and I'm skeptical about James Wan, the director slated for "Fast & Furious 7," who has only done horror movies.
"Fast & Furious 6" features cars zipping by at breakneck speeds, and things blowing up, and really, that's all you need from a movie over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The plot isn't particularly deep, and neither are the characters, but the shiny cars and intense action make this film a real crowd-pleaser. There are even some surprising plot twists along the way. If you're torn between catching "F&F6" or "The Hangover Part 3," choose this. You'll laugh more during this movie than you will with "Hangover 3."
"Fast & Furious 6" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. It is showing in 2-D.
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