It’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but when you see a film called Fast & Furious 6, it’s safe to assume you can kind of expect what’s coming: more of the same.
This franchise has found a formula and, say what you will, it works. Collectively the six films have grossed a little over $2 billion worldwide, made stars out of the likes of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, and ensured that sales of exhaust mufflers, body kits and alloys have not fallen in times of recession. It’s also ensured that Universal have fast-tracked Fast & Furious 7 for release next year. No prizes for guessing what will be in that film… bikini clad women, some songs by Ludacris, and essentially car-porn with a Dodge Charger. However, I’m not in the least bit embarrassed to say I will go and see that one too.
The franchise scored a home run in 2011 with Fast Five which was a critical and commercial hit, successfully reuniting all the cast from the other films. It also changed gear and shifted up from a flagging street racing series that was running on fumes to an epic heist story, giving the film a few extra miles in the tank. Fast & Furious 6 again pulls the same trick and is, under the hood, a spy/terrorist caper. We catch up with all the characters, headed by Dominic (Diesel) and Brian (Walker), who are offered pardons all round for their Rio heist if they help catch a group of thieves (led by Clash Of The Titans‘ Luke Evans), who are threatening to create a weapon of mass destruction by stealing various components from military convoys in daring vehicular robberies.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is again on hand as Agent Hobbs who keeps the rabble (amongst them Tyrese and Ludacris) in check. Sounds ridiculous, and it is. Needless to say the setup is dealt with in the opening 10 minutes, making way for the cars, girls, action and Vin’s gruff, indeterminable one liners. To say that there’s nothing but racing, girl-on-girl fights and excessive muscle flexing isn’t fair. There are some emotional stakes: Brian is a new father and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dominic’s true love (and thought dead from the previous instalments), is alive and well and fallen in with the bad crowd. That’s it on the emotion though, start your engines.
It’s not possible to review the acting, as let’s face it, the main star is Vin Diesel; however you can say this: everyone delivers their lines on time. It is good to see Rodriguez’s return and Evans is mildly threatening. Tyrese is also on-hand to provide the comic relief and has some great banter about baby oil with Johnson.
Director Justin Lin (who’s been along for the ride since number three, Tokyo Drift) is very much painting by numbers and brings nothing new to the table, but it is refreshing to see action scenes shot with minimal amounts of disorientating, constantly shaking camera work. For the most part you can see the fights and car chasing clearly enough. This is Lin’s last outing with the series (Saw and Insidious‘ James Wan is up next) so it will be interesting to see what follows.
Let’s cut to the chase. The real reason audiences see these films is for the action, and have no doubt, there is plenty on show. We have some truly epic vehicular warfare (as Ludacris puts it), including some motorway/bridge demolition with a tank, street racing around an eerily deserted London (no traffic in sight whatsoever) and a plane/car chase on what one can only describe as the longest runway in the world. Yes, it’s all preposterous, but by God, is it not great fun. We are also treated to some Rita Ora and really great London landscapes (the principal setting) for good measure.
Despite all the faulty and ridiculous components, the film as a whole somehow passes its MOT. Of course it’s not going to win any awards (maybe a Razzie or two) but it’s pure (and puerile) escapist fun. And isn’t that what counts? Yes, the series is probably long overdue a service but at this point, why bother? Sit back, buckle-up and just enjoy the ride.