Big dumb fun is often used to describe the Fast & the Furious films, followed by analogies to flashy cars with little substance under the hood, etc. I should think, however, that a franchise that has lasted for over six theatrical films (a seventh is already planned for next summer) has something else to offer, some adjuvant sprinkled betwixt the big and the dumb and the fun. My own fascination with this series surprises me yearly, but I’ve finally figured out what it is that keeps bringing me back.
Any film that showcases heroes with a highly specialized talent, handled well, is alluring. Really good gunfighters, really good martial artists, really good poker players, these are talents that don’t lend themselves half so well to literature as they do to film. Really good at driving cars even more so. But the Fast & the Furious films are unique in that its heroes are so damn good at driving cars and are so inextricably bound to their really good at driving cars universe that any problem in their lives can be solved by being really good at driving cars. Having any kind of talent is interesting but being able to build and drive machines of loving grace, drifting and shifting in the busy streets of the urban jungles of this vast Earth, winning other people’s machines by skill alone in that ultimately meritocratic underworld where the solution to any of life’s lofty queries is: go faster – that, well, that’s pretty damn appealing. Any film in which criminals are glorified and giant buses can roll tens of times down a highway without killing a single passenger and physics takes a backseat to the smashiest, crashiest spectacle this side of a Monster Truck derby is going to be classified escapist. But that is what all films are, even realistic ones. What’s happening on the screen is not happening in real life, and you are removing yourself from your life (a life lived rarely over 70 mph), for a handful of hours to take a break and watch something with less consequences and better climaxes than most of us experience in a given incarnation.
But enough of my philosophizing. Does Furious 6 kick ass? Oh my goodness, yes. To explain the plot may be possible without familiarity with the previous entries in this franchise (except the third, Tokyo Drift, which takes place between 6 and the upcoming 7), though its myriad cameos and story beats will utterly baffle newcomers. But, and this is where director Justin Lin has really outdone himself, the action is suitable for all audiences. There are three major scenes of vehicular mayhem in this outing and the second and third, one involving a tank and the other involving a cargo plane and the longest damn runway on the planet, are so audacious that even haters to this cinematic cavalcade will be left open mouthed and wide eyed. In case you forget where the popcorn goes.
It was watching the tank chase on the Spanish freeway in particular that I reflected on just how far this series has come from its simple 2001 roots, when both Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were hailed as the next big things and illegal street racing fatalities went sky high and nobody, least of all the filmmakers, saw a twelve year legacy ahead of this motosploitation flick. Furious 6 follows its predecessor, Fast Five, in reshaping the genre of the franchise, adhering to the tight continuity reestablished in 2009’s Fast & Furious, moving from a heist film to a bigger, meaner search and destroy caper.
First-class racer and underworld boogeyman Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) surfaces, leading a team of professional drivers that includes Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), once thought dead in FF4. DSS Agent Hobbs (a glowering Dwayne Johnson who is still a terrible actor but thankfully gets a script tailored to his strengths, mainly glowering and punching) enlists Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team to chase down the bad guy in return for full pardons to their many, many ridiculous crimes. I could give you a little more detail and say Shaw is trying to steal a chip that will turn the world’s power supply off or something but I sort of tune out The Rock whenever he’s not firing his magic hand cannon or saying “sumbitch.”
Fast Five was widely hailed as a bold new direction for the series, yet Furious 6 is a much more satisfying film for the fans. Whereas Fast & Furious was O’Connor-centric, 6 finally gives Dom something to get excited about. His role in 5 was mainly to stand there and be more stoic than the rest of the cast, almost to the point of coma. I’m going to sound ridiculous saying this but there is a scene in 6 where Diesel is racing Rodriguez and basically courting her via street race and it’s probably the most romantic moment in the whole series. That’s also something 6 has over 5 and the disappointingly CG-reliant 4, there’s actually a lot of genuine car racing in this one.
If you like this series, you’ll love this movie. If you’re coming to FF cold, you will probably be confused by all the Whos in its vast Whoville. But if you stay for the crazy chases and races, you won’t be disappointed.
“Ride or die.”
Furious 6 (2013)
Directed by Justin Lin
Fast and Furious Reviews
Part 1 – The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Part 2 – 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Part 3 – Fast & Furious (2009)
Part 4 – Fast Five (2011)
Part 6 – The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
For more film reviews, check out Pierce Nahigyan’s Article Archive