The “Fast and the Furious” franchise reminds me of shy kid at the start of a school year.
They start off rather quiet, displaying their talents in short spurts, but as time passes, and knowledge and recognition kicks in, the park-brake comes off and we’re treated to a unabashed showcase of cocksure shenanigans so ridiculous, and awash with confidence, you can’t help but take your eyes off him or her, and offer up a little clap.
If 2001’s “Fast and the Furious”, a modestly-budgeted action-thriller (that borrowed most of its stencil from Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break”) starring then newcomers Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, was the introvert pupil feeling his way around, then this year’s “Fast & Furious 6″ is the kid well and truly out of their shell, convinced he’s loved by all, and ready at the drop of a hat to put on a show for anyone and everyone. Everyone loves a class clown, right?
Though they’ve gotten away from the somewhat serious, inconspicuous tone of Rob Cohen’s original cop vs. crim caper, the ”Fast & Furious” films of recent years all retain the same welcome ingredients : fast, hot cars; plenty of muscle; and the themes of camaraderie and brotherhood. And this latest sequel, the “less” serious of any installment in the long running series (in fact, it’s so ridiculous it makes the original look like “Lorenzo’s Oil”), is no different. But in addition to showing off a few cool-looking muscle cars and having Vin Diesel and Paul Walker hug it out once a reel, director Justin Lin (who has been onboard the series since no.3) seems determined to shift into a higher gear with this latest sequel.
Instead of simply offering up the same bag of tricks (not that those ‘same bag of tricks’ aren’t working), Lin – equipped with a bigger budget than he had on the last film; no doubt the result of “Fast Five” chalking up something like a trillion dollars, give or take a dollar, at the box-office – fills the thing with some of the most eye-popping, clap-deserving stunt sequences ever laid down on film. Forget whatever else is in the film, there are three of four scream-good action moments in this film that will have audiences yahooing with glee, and that my friends, is enough to warrant the admission price alone. With his determination to crossbreed the car movie with the superhero movie (there’s a flying moment that has to be seen to be believed), Lin really outdoes himself here, offering the series a nice hard push on the accelerator– just when it would normally be slowing up. Is it stupid? silly? nonsensical? a ‘joke’? Hell yes, but that also seems be to the strength of these “Fast” movies as they speed into the 21st Century. These movies are all about giving a packed cinema crowd a good time, and over six films, it’s certainly crafted an effortless ability to do just that.
Equipped with much of the same cast of the last film, including action kingpin Dwayne Johnson, “Fast and Furious 6” sees the crew heading to London where, in exchange for full pardons on past crimes, they agree to help the cops (namely Hobbs, played by Johnson) bring down a crime syndicate, led by devious Brit Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
Hobbs sparked Dominic’s (Vin Diesel) interest- and his crew, including former cop Brian, played by Paul Walker; Tyrese’s jive-talking playboy Roman, Ludacris’s quick-quipping gadget-man Tej, and Sung Kang’s kindly, crafty Han, from the get-go – by simply waving a photo in front of him. As such, the big guy’s not in the UK to catch a crook so much as he is determined to come face to face with a ghost (his supposedly dead girlfriend Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, is outed as an active member of the bad guy’s crew) and find out why she faked her death… if she did.
There’s three of four other subplots fighting for screen time too, and quite honestly, none of them much make a lick of sense, especially when slapped together. But you know what? The “Furious” franchise seems to almost thrive now on its hokey, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plots and its laughably cheesy Schwarzenegger-of-the-80s style dialogue, and since it seems in on the joke, you don’t much mind the muck it nibbles on – not when there’s a sensational 20-minute action sequence on a Spanish bridge with a Tank (!) coming up! or even better, a sequence featuring cars balancing on trapeze wires stung from an airplane just around the corner!
Cast-wise, the troupe have the chemistry down-pat now : Diesel and Walker’s on-screen best-buds relationship plays real, the supporting characters (particularly, in this one, Tyrese, Ludacris and Sung Kang) bounce well off each other, Michelle Rodriguez – despite taking the last film off – seamlessly blends back into the speedy portrait, and recent addition Dwayne Johnson feels a lot better a fit this time – now that he’s playing on the ‘right side’.
This installment’s newbies, including hot tough-chick (well, aren’t they all in this series?) Gina Carano as a law-enforcer, and bad guy Luke Evans, also seem to be getting into their parts.
Not much of Jordana Brewster, Walker’s love-interest and Diesel’s on-screen sister, in this one (likely due to her commitments with TVs “Dallas”, of which she’s a regular on) but she does pop up for the showiest scene in the third reel, getting to partake in the greatness of that moment.
Lin won’t have to try and top himself with ”Fast & Furious 7”; not because there won’t be one (of course there is! And this one sets it up beautifully!), but because he’s taking a well earned rest from the series. Instead, responsibility will fall with Australian moviemaker James Wan, of the “Saw” franchise. The boy, particularly after this bravura sequel, has his work cut out for him.