REVIEW: Fast & Furious 6 [2013]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 130 minutes | Release Date: May 24th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Justin Lin
Writer(s): Chris Morgan / Gary Scott Thompson (characters)

“You wanna catch wolves? You need wolves.”

It’s family reunion time in the Fast & Furious franchise as its creative team consisting of director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan expand the arc they began seven years ago with Tokyo Drift. The one installment without tough guy scowls from Paul Walker’s Brian or Vin Diesel’s Dom (although the latter did cameo), it’s out of chronological order existence had only since been alluded to via the continued participation of Sung Kang’s Han. Fast Five brought Brian’s old friends from 2 Fast 2 Furious into the fold of Dom’s tragedy-stricken “family” from Fast & Furious and now Fast & Furious 6 makes them whole to bring it all full circle. Whether or not the soon-to-come seventh entry is the last, you cannot deny the success Lin and Morgan have built from a cheesy, second-rate Point Break knock-off.

Currently scattered around the world, Dom Toretto and his team of elite street racers/high stakes thieves have contentedly gone to pasture with the millions they earned in Brazil. Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster) have a son, Dom restarted his life with Elena (Elsa Pataky), and a lack of extradition law keeps them safe from prying American eyes. Even so, there remains one impossible revelation that could bring them all back into the game and DSS agent turned Toretto apologist Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) holds it in his hands. Hot on the trail of a psychopathic criminal by the name of Shaw (Luke Evans), Hobbs recruits Dom and the gang to help prevent potential worldwide catastrophe. They may want the full pardons he offers in return, but the true prize is discovering Letty (Michele Rodriguez) is alive.

Wanting nothing more than to reunite Dom with his true love, it only takes a phone call to get everyone in London. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Han, and Gisele (Gal Gadot) are there along with Hobbs’ new partner Riley (Gina Carano) just as Shaw appears ready to make his move. Always ten steps ahead of the authorities, this European baddie believes he and his crew untouchable until Dom and company rain on his parade when they narrowly miss apprehending him. A cat and mouse chase ensues with Letty’s amnesiac floating in the middle—feeling something in her heart for the stranger she once belonged to as well as a sense of loyalty to the new boss who saved her. Hobbs wants Shaw, Dom wants Letty, Brian wants redemption, and the plot thickens with twists and turns.

Credit Morgan for finding a way to intelligently (?) weave his five scripts together into a cohesive whole. Maybe it was always part of a conscious plan or maybe he simply retrofitted Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious to allow their three successors inclusion inside this grandiose scheme. Either way, I can’t help but get excited when everything falls into place. I loved how the Saw franchise toyed with time, fate, and coincidence and to an extent Morgan does the same here. Characters like Shea Whigham’s Stasiak and John Ortiz’s Braga return for a subplot just as a new secret foe is introduced during a post-credits sequence. One could say this screenwriter is being a little too cute but when the action delivers on its promise of high-octane destruction and flesh pounding hand-to-hand combat, who’s complaining?

Just as this sort of over-arching narrative agrees with me in principle, however, I will admit to being a bit lost at times due to my never having seen episodes two through four. Fast Five—while crucial to the puzzle—was for all intents and purposes a standalone work within the series and therefore easy for an outsider like myself to come in and have fun. Fast & Furious 6 relies on a bit more knowledge of the past and thankfully helps illuminate some plot points I hadn’t already gleaned beforehand. It wouldn’t be fair to necessarily blame this on the film, though, when it is a sixth installment. Shame on me for not taking the time to catch up first. In fact, kudos to Morgan and Lin for causing me to want to retroactively now.

Mythology aside, the singular story at hand captivates on its own merits too when paired with the beautifully choreographed fight and chase sequences. London’s glass façades are ravaged by the cast’s souped-up automobiles going against Shaw’s myriad toys ranging from Formula One-esque/tank-strong racers to EMP-like chips rendering any computer electronics they’re affixed to dead. We’re given two climactic set-pieces in Spain with an actual tank and jumbo cargo plane respectively while also watching some extremely brutal brawls on behalf of Rodriguez and Carano; Joe Taslim, Kang, and Tyrese; and Diesel, Johnson, Evans, and Kim Kold. These are some heavyweight battles with fewer fast cuts and edits than you would think as physical muscle plays just as big of a role as the power under the hood.

In the end, though, it’s still a Fast & Furious film. Morgan may do a good job bringing together his big picture, but the desire to inject fortune cookie philosophizing about family and love is laughably overwrought. I can forgive physics defying leaps through the air from vehicle to vehicle in a summer popcorn flick, but watching deep-voiced badasses talk about honor and love with stone-faced seriousness can be much. I wouldn’t go so far as saying these characters shouldn’t be allowed to talk—Tyrese, Ludacris, and Johnson are highly entertaining and the blossoming romance between Kang and Gadot is sweet—but Morgan needs to tone this stuff down. It’s like that first MMA-style match between Rodriguez and Carano: a great five-to-ten minute sequence without words that spoke volumes. Sometimes silence is golden.

[1] (L to R) Brian (PAUL WALKER), Hobbs (DWAYNE JOHNSON) and Dom (VIN DIESEL) reunite for “Fast & Furious 6”, the next installment of the global blockbuster franchise built on speed. Photo Credit: Giles Keyte Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
[2] (L to R) Riley (GINA CARANO) and Letty (MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ) engage in hand-to-hand combat in “Fast & Furious 6”, the next installment of the global blockbuster franchise built on speed. Photo Credit: Giles Keyte Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
[3] LUKE EVANS as criminal mastermind Shaw in “Fast & Furious 6”, the next installment of the global blockbuster franchise built on speed. Photo Credit: Giles Keyte Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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