Published May 23, 2013Having directed the latter four of the six Fast & Furious movies, Justin Lin has the formula down to a science. First, quickly establish a reason, plausible or not, for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) to hop back in their cars. Second, introduce a new vehicle in a kinetic action sequence. Third, have everyone regroup and then dole out some loose exposition and one-liners. And lastly, have this discussion lead to more action, regrouping, one-liners and, eventually, a ridiculously over-the-top half-hour climax.
In this sense, Fast & Furious 6 doesn't disappoint. After a faux-car chase leads us to a hospital, where Mia (Jordana Brewster) is having Brian's baby, Dominic, who's now living in a million-dollar estate with Elena (Elsa Pataky), is approached by INTERPOL agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his new sidekick, Riley (Gina Carano). Since a very brief introduction suggests that both men have given up high-octane crime for domestic bliss, there's really only one thing lingering that could bring them back into the fold: Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).
Within minutes — literally — the entire gang is back together. Han (Sung Kang) and girlfriend Gisele (Gal Gadot), similarly wondering if they should, "like, settle down or something," jump in, as do Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris). They're all keen on tracking down Letty and her new crew of criminals, led by former Special Ops soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
Much like a videogame, the film unfolds with the heroes and villains each discussing strategy in a high-tech home base before running out and getting into fist fights in subway stations or chasing each other down public highways in tanks. There's even a tongue-in-cheek character introduction where wall-sized photos of each player are lined up for both sides, with Roman knowingly pointing out, "they're like copies of us!"
And, indeed, they are, which is fine, since this means that every single action sequence has several different fights or car chases going on simultaneously, mostly with Letty and Riley beating the living crap out of each other while Dominic and Shaw take the respective lead positions.
It makes for a kinetic, though entirely ludicrous ride — see the highway chase scene where a central character is thrown from a tank and caught mid-air for maximum hilarity — which is only occasionally interrupted for a bit of romantic flair between amnesia victim Letty and Dominic, who even do a full Lethal Weapon 3 scar comparison to maximize the cheese factor.
Dissected, the "us vs. them" thematic groundwork of it all is complete nonsense — every character at one time or another, occasionally while hanging off a speeding vehicle, points out that "this" is who they are — but it serves as enough filler to guide Fast & Furious 6 to its next pornographic action sequence.
Why there's a mid-film street race or what Shaw wants with some mysterious microchip (because the lethal virus idea was taken?) is as unimportant as the physics behind a fleet of cars taking down a plane. What are important are the action and the occasional flippant remark, which this trashy populist action film has in spades.
It's patronizing and derivative, but it's also exactly what fans of this franchise have come to expect. And, in comparison, the sixth entry is more polished than some of the earlier offerings, knowing full well that it's delivering little more than cinematic fast-food by adding an extra scoop of mayo for those looking to indulge. (Paramount)