Fast & Furious 6
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Chris Morgan (screenplay), Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Fast Five was a breakthrough for the Fast and Furious franchise. It was a film that seemed to know exactly what its fans wanted and delivered on all fronts – an Avengers‘ like team up of cast members from previous films, copious amounts of flashy cars and the most ridiculously over-the-top action sequences they could imagine. It wasn’t exactly the Citizen Kane of car films, but it was certainly a solidly-entertaining crowd-pleaser.
Wisely, in another Avengers-esque move, that film ended with a cliffhanger Easter egg that ensured fans would be back in theaters for Fast & Furious 6. As the credits roll, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is handed surveillance footage from a recent heist. The photo is of Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) childhood friend/love interest, who was “killed” in 2009’s Fast & Furious.
Fast & Furious 6 picks up right where that film left off, showing fans a payoff to another moment teased at the end of Fast Five – Toretto and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) race to prove once and for all who is the best driver. It turns out the two are racing to the hospital to see Mia (Jordana Brewster), O’Conner’s wife and Toretto’s sister, who is giving birth to her and O’Conner’s first child. Shortly thereafter, Hobbs shows up on Toretto’s doorstep with the surveillance photo in order to recruit him and his crew to track down Letty’s new boss, an elusive mercenary named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
From a logical standpoint, this is absolutely ridiculous in every way. Hobbs spent the entire last film trying to catch Toretto and his crew to bring them back to justice. Even though he ended up teaming up with them to take down the villain of that film, it ended with him letting Toretto and O’Conner go, but warning them he would arrest them on sight the next time they crossed paths. So the idea that he would seek their help (under the flimsy logic that it takes a fast driving thief to catch a fast driving thief) and offer them all immunity for their previous crimes is utterly nonsensical. But this is a film where souped up cars are used to neutralize tanks and cargo planes, so it’s best not to dwell on the set up for too long. (That being said, even by Fast and Furious believability standards, the explanation for Letty cheating death and resurfacing as one of Shaw’s operatives is just mind numbingly bad.)
All of the set up and explanations are simply window dressing. Fans want to see Dwanye Johnson and Vin Diesel team up together, they want to see more of Letty and they want an excuse for “the band” to get back together. As long as there are plenty of street races, epic throwdowns and explosions, no one is likely to ask too many questions. Besides, the only relevant question is a simple one: Is it as entertaining as Fast Five?
Unfortunately, I don’t think it quite reaches that bar. Fast & Furious 6 certainly has its moments and, for the most part, it works, but there are a few disappointing decisions made by director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan that keep it from being as entertaining as it should be.
One of the biggest problems is that the film seems overly crowded. Fast Five did an excellent job making sure its sizable cast all got their fair share of screen time. There were wonderful character moments for supporting players like Gisele Harabo (Gal Gadot) and Han Lue (Sung Kang), whose love story ended up being one of my favorite parts of Fast Five, and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who spend these films bickering back and forth with one another, which is always funny. But this time around, even with Tego Leo (Tego Calderon) and Rico Santos (Don Omar) sitting this mission out, these supporting players seem rather marginalized. Tragically, so does Mia, who spends most of the film at home taking care of her newborn.
Adding to this problem is the fact that the new characters who get the bulk of the screen time just aren’t as interesting as the ones shuffled off to the sidelines. Our villain Shaw just seems like an amalgam of every action movie bad guy cliché you’ve ever seen. Luke Evans doesn’t inject much charisma or personality into the character – and there certainly isn’t much of either on the page – so you’ve never really given much of a reason to care about Shaw, which is a problem since so much of the plot hinges on him. The other notable new character is DSS agent Riley (Gina Carano). Carano is a former MMA fighter, so she excels in all of the action scenes, but her line delivery generally comes across as wooden and her character doesn’t have much of a defined personality outside of “bad ass.”
Justin Lin also put himself in a corner by bringing back Letty. At the end of Fast Five, Toretto ends up with Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), a local cop Hobbs recruits to hunt our heroes down. As I mentioned, the end of that film teased the return of Letty, so Lin knew he was bringing her back when he put Toretto and Neves together. He knew he’d have to address this love triangle somehow. But instead of really tackling it in a meaningful way, Neves is given as little screen time as possible in hopes that we just forget about her and never start to wonder how she feels about her new boyfriend reconnecting with his presumed-dead ex.
Then there’s Lin’s decision to stage a lot of his action sequences at night, including the climactic battle. These films are already edited in a frenetic style, so making them dimly lit makes it difficult to follow some of the action. I spent too much time during big action moments trying to figure out what was happening. The action scenes are obviously the bread and butter of these movies, so this is a pretty big problem.
But even with a nonsensical plot and a handful of questionable choices, Fast & Furious 6 is a solid popcorn flick that will appeal to fans of the franchise. And brilliantly, it ends with an even better Easter egg than Fast Five, one that ensures we will all be back in theaters in 2015 to see Fast & Furious 7.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at email@example.com.