Review: Lin's 'Fast & Furious 6' Comes Full Circle in Fun, Fierce Way
by Jeremy Kirk
May 24, 2013
It's official. The title of the sixth film in the Fast and the Furious anthology is, at least here in the states, Furious 6. It's Fast and Furious 6 in foreign markets, but it doesn't take long to realize the Fast part of the title is gone. Furious 6 is never as exhilarating as its most recent predecessor, Fast Five, but it's difficult to keep up with that thrill-a-minute spectacular. Still, lack of pace doesn't keep this entry from being a rock-solid action extravaganza with a few genuine tricks up its sleeve. Furious 6 revs up slow, but just like the franchise's muscle-car-loving muscle head lead, it knows when to hit the nitrous: a bit later in the race.
When we last left Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his merry band of car racers and heist takers, they were sitting comfortably abroad having just scored the job of a lifetime. Each of them is financially set, unable to go back to their home of the United States but content with living out the rest of their years in hiding. In hiding is still somewhat peaceful save for the occasional race Dominic and his best friend and former FBI agent Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) take along the coastline.
It's all going well until Universal Soldier Secret Service Intelligence agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson. Actually I'm not sure which department of the US government Hobbs works for, but let's just say he's got a lot of pull.) shows up at Dom's door with a photo. That changes everything. The photo is of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the love of Dom's life who he believed was shot and killed years before, back in the fourth entry, Fast & Furious. Hobbs claims the photo was taken only a week prior and that Letty has joined another crew of high-end thieves. Dom decides it's time to call everyone back in from the cold to take on this one, final job and get their friend back.
Director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan, the team behind the franchise since its third entry (and last chronologically), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, are never that interested in the mystery of their story. That is-she-or-isn't-she aura that instantly built up around Rodriguez's character when her picture was first seen at the end of Fast Five is carried over in the minimalist way. It's to the point that when Dom's new girlfriend, Elena (Elsa Pataky), sees that something is troubling him, she instantly asks, "It's Letty, isn't it?" Everyone just kind of assumed Letty was still alive anyway. They were just waiting for her to show back up in their lives.
But that's just fine for the Fast and the Furious series, which, only to the point of its structure, has turned into the Saw of the action blockbusters. Instead of creative traps that dismember people, we have creative car chases. That usually dismember people, but it's PG-13. It's bloodless.
Nonetheless, Lin and Morgan have taken what was a fun throwaway of a Summer blockbuster and turned The Fast and the Furious into an outright saga. When you need timelines to explain which movies come in which order, the interest of the series as a whole instantly goes up, and when you fill your films with as much heart as you do explosive entertainment, that's what makes the series a worthwhile endeavor through and through.
Furious 6's theme of family is easily read. Dom is trying to get his family (Letty) back. Brian and his girlfriend and Dom's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), have just welcomed a baby into their lives. The villain, ex special forces badass, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), keeps quoting this brother of his. It's a message that Lin and Morgan drive into the audience's head. "There's nothing quite like your family." But it's usually told to us through Vin Diesel's voice, so, you know, it's cool.
Also cool, very cool indeed, is Furious 6's final 40 minutes. Much of the film plays with the mystery, keeps the good-guy crew constantly trying to get the upper hand on the bad-guy crew, and throws in stylized car chase after stylized car chase. The comedic banter much of Dom's crew throws at one another is typical but keeps the pep always up in the room. It all rides smoothly until those final 40 minutes, when all hell breaks loose, tanks and giant cargo planes included. Lin is a wizard at crafting pulse-pounding, engaging, and highly inventive action pieces. It takes a while for Furious 6 to get to them, but when it does, it's best to be strapped in.
The action in Furious 6 energizes the audience, but the story here energizes the bonds of all of these characters. That's needed where Furious 6 ends up, full circle to Tokyo Drift and evidently the end of Lin's run at the steering wheel. His four-film arc has allowed the Fast and the Furious series to transcend beyond the entertainment value of the first film as well as the general laziness of 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second film. These last two films, however, have set the bar extremely high for future directors to take over. At least we know, from Furious 6's post-credit scene, the villain in The Fast and the Furious 7 is going to be a doozy.
Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10