‘Fast & Furious 6’ Movie Review – Validating the Franchise
It took The Fast and the Furious franchise a long time to create an identity. For those patient enough, Fast Five finally put together the first complete film (you can check out my franchise review here). This year’s Fast & Furious 6 takes all the things that have worked and does them bigger and better. It’s still a franchise movie (which comes with some baggage), but Justin Lin’s newest installment is far and away the best to date.
Taking place after their infamous Rio heist, the crew starts the movie out retired all around the world. While they are still not allowed back in the U.S., they’ve got all the money in the world to ease their pain. However, when an old team member, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), resurfaces, Diplomatic Security Service Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) talks Dom (Vin Diesel) and O’Connor (Paul Walker) out of retirement.
Letty has joined forces with a ruthless criminal, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), that represents a change-in-pace to the formulaic Fast and the Furious villain. Shaw isn’t a drug trafficker or car thief. Instead, he’s a form of global terrorist with a mission to block military communication and cripple a nation. With this power, he could sell it for an unfathomable amount of money.
Dom becomes motivated by Letty’s return, while the promise of full pardons motivate the rest of the team. The entire crew returns, including Mia (Jordana Brewster), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), and Han (Sung Kang).
Part of what makes Fast & Furious 6 more than just “entertaining” are the connections to the rest of the franchise. It’s not absolutely necessary to see every film before this one, and there is a fun montage at the beginning that fills in the gaps, but a more cohesive story forms over the span of the franchise. Even the much-maligned Tokyo Drift seems necessary after Fast & Furious 6.
Before this one, the franchise suffered by trying to make stories concurrently with the street racing and action. Too many times, the film would seem too trite or cliché. Now, the franchise can rely on the characters and action to make it through a movie. You could argue that it took the first five films to make this happen, essentially qualifying their existence.
Really, Fast & Furious 6 is all about the action sequences and entertainment value. It’s not a movie that tries (or expects) to be an award winner. It’s a film that wants to be crowd-pleaser by pulling out all the action punches. Lin deserves a lot of credit because this is truly his best work in the franchise. The sequences, although sometimes a little over-the-top, are unparalleled.
Critics of the film have plenty of ammunition to fire back at the movie, though. Since it is action-based (as an aside, I’d like to continue praising the film for being action first, street-racing second), there are plenty of leaps of faith. Fast & Furious 6 does rely on a lot of “movie magic,” especially when it comes to seemingly the longest runway in the world. It also uses a bit of “conveniences,” especially in explaining Letty’s return.
However, these are minor bumps in the road. As last year’s The Raid: Redemption showed us, you don’t always need story. The franchise aspect of the movie could hurt it – it really does deflate suspense when you know certain characters simply can’t die – but I was still on the edge of my seat. As far as expectations go, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece. I was expecting to see a movie that would be thoroughly entertaining.
This is exactly what Justin Lin delivers in Fast & Furious 6. I would even argue it is surprisingly thought-provoking. It delivers what everyone should expect in a Fast and the Furious movie, but it delivers it in a way that none of the others can touch. Most importantly, it continues to grow the franchise in quality, something I never would’ve expected a few years ago.
Fast & Furious 6 released over this long weekend. See it at pretty much any theater near you!