Published Dec 12, 2013The menu for the Fast and Furious 6 Blu-Ray immediately directs you to check out a sneak peek of the seventh instalment, a project that has recently been placed on indefinite hold in the wake of star Paul Walker's recent death in a car accident. As if the tease of a next entry now shrouded in uncertainty weren't torturous enough to fans of the series, the scene chosen to preview the seventh film happens to take place at a funeral and sees Tyrese uncomfortably pleading to Walker's ex-cop character Brian, "No more funerals."
The sudden loss of Walker comes at a time when the franchise has really developed into a well-oiled machine, one cobbled together out of the best parts of the previous instalments. If Fast Five was the apex, a non-stop burst of kinetic energy that continually left mouths agape with its incredible action sequences, this one could be regarded as the dizzying encore. It never quite matches the breezy appeal of its predecessor, but it closes out the second trilogy with a go-for-broke zeal that doesn't lack for effort.
Without recapping everything that's come before, notorious criminal and gear-head Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is lured out of hiding by foe-turned-friend Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) after the gang's huge payday in Rio and is thrown into a job involving hunting down his former girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who was presumed dead at the end of the fourth instalment. With his usual crew by his side, including best friend Walker, Tyrese, Ludacris and the newly coupled Gal Gadot and Sung Kang, Dom goes up against a rival team headed by the cold and calculating Shaw (Luke Evans) that Letty apparently joined after waking up with a bad case of amnesia.
The specifics of why they are after him are so inessential that Tyrese even interrupts while Johnson is explaining the McGuffin. What the audience for these films really cares about is all of the action set pieces, and there are definitely a few here that embrace the pure spectacle and preposterous pyrotechnics that fans have come to anticipate. A fight between Rodriguez and series newcomer and MMA fighter Gina Carano just may achieve director Justin Lin's stated goal of creating the best hand-to-hand combat scene between two women ever put on film, while a car that flips other cars, a tank and a huge plane are just a sampling of some of the impressive vehicles being used to help raise the stakes this time around.
The familiar theme of family that is hammered home again and again throughout the film is echoed in all of the behind-the-scenes footage included in the disc's supplemental material, and seeing how close the cast and crew have become in creating these films only makes the reality of Walker's death all the more upsetting. It also results in a lot of mutual admiration among the interviews, with Lin being especially grateful on his commentary track and elsewhere on the disc's special features for all of the success. The director deserves a lot of praise for taking an opportunity he earned from making a movie financed by credit cards (Better Luck Tomorrow) and, over the course of four movies, helping to transform a fledgling series into what's now become a lucrative empire.
With Lin departing and handing the reins over to James Wan (Insidious), the future of the series now remains murky beyond the additions of Jason Statham and Kurt Russell, but you have to wonder if the nature of Walker's death can't help but make all of this high-octane fun a little less enjoyable going forward. After all, would anyone have wanted to watch I Still Know What You Did Last Summer if Jennifer Love Hewitt had been killed by a fisherman in a raincoat after making the first one? (Universal)