I often refer to the Fast & Furious franchise as the Citizen Kane of mindlessness and Fast & Furious 6, despite some initial disappointment, lives up to this title. In other words, Fast 6 is bat shit crazy – it’s super insane, super ridiculous, and, most importantly, super fun. Not every franchise lives through six films, but by embracing the meta age with each installment, the Fast movies have become makeshift blockbuster tentpoles, films that know just how absurd they are and relish in their macho-charged lunacies, leaving the audience with movies that do nothing but entertain on a steroid-injected level. What’s not to love? This “leave your brain at the door” mentality turned 2011’s Fast Five into a franchise milestone as it mixed elements of Bullitt with Ocean’s Eleven to create one wild cinematic ride, and while this sixth installment doesn’t quite reach the speed of its predecessor, Fast 6 is an outrageous summer ride nonetheless.
Following the events of Fast Five, this new model starts with our beloved Fast crew – Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) – living in luxury and relishing in the millions upon millions they made after their successful bank heist in Rio. Retired and laying low, Dom and the gang are brought back together when U.S. DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) offers to clear the group’s name and allow them reentry into America if they help him and his new co-agent, Riley (Gina Carano), catch a skilled mercenary organization led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). The catch? Shaw’s second-in-command is Letty Ortiz (Michele Rodriguez), Dom’s former love who was seemingly killed off in the fourth film, Fast & Furious. Like I said before, turn your brain off at the door!
With Letty back in the mix and the great Michele Rodriguez returning as more of a badass than we’ve ever seen her (someone get this girl the lead role in an action franchise stat!), this is the most personal mission yet and the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen the Fast gang, especially Dom, once again played to perfection by Vin Diesel, who slowly growls his way through deep-voiced catchphrases as if the character were an action figure doll. In many ways, Diesel has become a Robert Downey Jr. all his own, giving each line his trademark gravely-mumble and always making the sure the audience knows that this movie has one goal and one goal only: to entertain the hell out of you and man oh man does it! In his HitFix Review, critic Drew McQueeny hit the nail on the head by saying how this franchise is constructed upon building to moments that wow, and the action scenes in Fast 6 do more than that, they flat out coat your heart in crack and let your mind race as if it were on nitrous oxide. From an instant classic drag race between Dom and Letty, to a brutal, Bourne-like smack down between Carano and Rodriguez (these women throw down harder than any man), to a climax so over-the-top and so out-of-control, Fast 6 delivers where it matters most, despite some bumbling filler like the confusingly toned opening credits scene. In all seriousness, the climax – a gonzo sequence set on an airport runaway as a huge plane races to talk off – is one of the most impressive acts of absurdity I’ve ever seen, a ferocious orgy of car races, hand-to-hand beat downs, and nonsensical explosions that culminates in an orgasm of epic proportions. If that sounds ridiculous (which it obviously should) just wait, you haven’t seen anything until you witness the slam-bam climax for yourself – it’s an action moment that Michael Bay only wishes he could make.
So, why the disappointment? It’s just not as good as Fast Five. Just like Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast 6 follows the series’ best and most refreshingly breakthrough entry. After The Avengers, Star Trek, and Fast Five, we expect and hope for follow-ups that raise their franchises even higher and, unfortunately, not one of these 2013 Summer sequels have done so. Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and now Fast 6 are all high spirited, perfect summer blockbusters – more than worthy of your money at the multiplex – but they end up being just another entry in their respective franchises and not the mega game changers we had hoped they would be following their mind-blowingly great predecessors. This time, Fast 6 is just another good Fast and Furious movie – complete with an uneasy balance of clumsy filler and amazing spectacle – which is somewhat disappointing for such a big fan like me who expected more from the follow-up to Fast Five.
Though the screenplay can get too hammy in the filler moments – not even Tyrese, Ludacris, or The Rock – completely bulging out of his Under Armour – can save some of the cheesy lines their forced to recite – none of it really matters in a franchise all about entertaining and one that does it so damn well. In his Fast swan song, director Justin Lin (he’s helmed Tokyo Drift and onward) has created a ballet of testosterone fueled madness and, honestly, I kind of love it; luckily, thanks to an ingenious post-credits sequence, this franchise will continue with the addition of yet another modern action legend (trust me, I won’t spoil the surprise here!).
It may not be Fast Five but Furious 6 is another wild summer beast. Buckle up, folks, it’s about to get nuts.
Review by Zack Sharf