REVIEW: 'Fast & Furious 6': Action Mythology

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This might come be a surprise to some because you know I like my big blockbuster comic book movies. I also wholeheartedly support large successful franchises that greatly span film history like Star Trek and James Bond. But honestly, I'm the type of guy who touts drama and art over action. Subtle beats of human emotion and interesting direction backed by a strong story are key elements of suspending belief long enough for me to care about the people on the big screen.

What Director Justin Lin and Writer Chris Morgan have done for The Fast and the Furious franchise with their involvement since Tokyo Drift; they've been creating a sort of loose mythology with each of the films. In which as the box office and favorable critic reviews would explain; this most recent installment is a success (and probably the most successful to date). Why do you ask? How come a street racing, undercover policing, international drifting, bank heisting, car-flipping, family drama-related franchise continue to win over audiences?

That’s it. It’s all those things and more. Instead of retreading the same tropes that existed and worked in the previous films, they continue to change just enough of it up, while at same time carrying over certain plot points and characters. Though these films aren't near perfect by any stretch of the imagination; they’re fun, easy to follow, gravity defying, mucho explosivo, and way up there on the cheese factor. But if you've already watched more than one of these films and expected zero cheese; you’re not a fan and you probably shouldn't watch them. I don’t even know why you’re reading this? Knock it off.

So let’s talk about Fast & Furious 6. The story-line as we know from the end of Fast Five is that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and crew have made out of Rio de Janeiro with 100 million dollars. They did this by alluding and outsmarting newest the addition to the franchise; the overly muscle-bound CIA Agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) by dragging a giant ass bank vaunt downtown nearly crushing everything in its path. How? Because f*** logic, that’s how. Then at the end of the movie, it was revealed to Hobbs that a member of Toretto’s original crew, (and lover) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive. Before then, we’ve been led to believe that she was killed at the end of Fast & Furious (the 4th installment).

So what we can now gather from the trailers is that the each of the crew earned their keep and they’re living the life of the rich and infamous. Hobbs, being the great plot motivator that he is, has come across another car-jacking crew except these guys are after something else; a piece of technology that could destroy millions and sell for billions. After many attempts to stop said crew led by a man named Shaw (Luke Evans), Hobbs finds out Letty is working for him. And that’s when he brings the ordeal to Toretto. In return, full pardons for the entire crew so they can move back to the States instead of living on the run.

From the beginning credit sequence, Justin Lin reminds you of the reasons why you’re watching this movie as it plays back some of the most memorable scenes in The Fast and the Furious series. It feels like a last hurrah but it’s purely there to tell you that the crew, this “family” is all that matters. That’s the selling point of this movie and almost to a fault. In comparison to Lin's previous 3 films; this one has the most dialogue, wit, and drama. I’m convinced that Lin wanted to turn this series into a set of character pieces where everyone gets a chance to deliver and shine. He might not get to them in Fast & Furious, but he did in Fast Five. And who he didn’t get in Fast Five, he got to in Fast & Furious 6. That’s paying a service to the actor, the viewer, and the story.

I haven’t really covered it yet but the caliber of this cast keeps getting bigger and better with each installment. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are serious bro-mates that never let up. After all these years working with each other, it compliments the film by setting a consistent and familiar tone. Dwayne Johnson just sweats testosterone but does it well. Since he isn’t against Toretto’s crew, we get to see a different side to how he gets shit done. Ludacris and Tyrese banter so convincingly well together that I feel like it has to improv. Sung Kang is a totally in love which adds a level of complexity I've never got to see in the other films. And the film’s villain Luke Evans plays up the bad boy role with a code of precision.

And now to the ladies. To me, they walk away the victors in this film. Michelle Rodriguez, Gisele (Gal Gabot), Hobbs new partner Riley (Haywire’s Gina Carano); they all own their fight scenes and action pieces. They also were given the most emotional beats because what they were doing actually mattered to the plot. Never too over-the-top, not written into the typical jealousy traps, and acted surprisingly mature. I’ve... never seen that happen in a blockbuster film. Say for example, Star Trek Into Darkness… actually, I couldn’t put it better than how Angie Han said it over at /Film. Check that article if you want to catch the gist of what I’m saying.

Anyways, the action is insane, mindbogglingly awesome and is some of the most fun I’ve had in the theatre in a long time. It’s a welcoming sequel in the stampede of more sequels to come later this year. Lets hope they all live up the their respected hype as well.

Recommendation:

I’d recommend this movie to anyone still on board The Fast and the Furious train. If you liked Fast Five, you’ll like this one. You would want to see the characters grow and change because what the movie tends to lack in overall seriousness, it makes up for it by creating a mythology that spans multiple films. It’s longevity that holds my interest and how I actually feel about these characters. Something other artful or even... summer films are unable to pull off. I’d also recommend this franchise to anyone wanting to turn off their brain for a decent number of hours and watch cars and the human body do impossible things.

Would I consider this film theatre worthy?

I would only say yes because of two points:    

  1. It looks good, sounds good, and it plays well with a lot of people. Loud theatre full of people? Perfect setting. (way more than one thing here.)
  2. The big reveal at the end. If you've seen all the movies and can remember some of the more potent moments; then much like Fast Five, the end sets up for Fast & Furious 7. No spoilers, yo.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already had so many that at this point, it’s just silly. Now I’ve spoken a lot about what this film has to offer and what it brings to the series but I haven’t really mentioned how this movie plays on its own. If you’re not familiar with the franchise, you’re not going to like it as much. You're going to be lost or miss some of the more relevant references. These movies are not for everyone but they’re really trying to be. On its own, Fast & Furious 6 is a fun, silly, action movie with character moments that don't really matter. As a sequel, it’s the best in the series. I had high hopes going into this sixth installment and I came out digging it more than I thought I could. It proved to me the trend of too many movies can actually be good and pay off some of the weaker moments by revisiting them and doing them justice.

Slamfist Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Afterthought:

You have to keep in mind that “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” ( the 3rd installment) actually takes place after this movie but DO NOT watch it in that order. Trust me, it pays off big time. This led to some confusion because if you remember Han (Sung Kang) actually died in that movie but he was reintroduced in “Fast Five” as one of Toretto’s crew for the major bank heist. That’s because it wasn’t so much a reintroduction due to Tokyo Drift taking place after Fast and Furious 6. OK, I admit it; the naming convention in this series is absolutely atrocious. Don’t judge it… says the reviewer.

It’s out now in theatres everywhere! Ride or die.