So Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew are back. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew are back. And some new faces, Hobbs’ partner Riley (Gina Carano) and villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) dd to the franchise’s ever-growing roster.
I thought the vast number of characters would be too much of a distraction in the last installment, and, to an extent, it was. But I liked Fast 5, and I’m happy to say that 6 is even better.
The premise is all but unnecessary. Hobbs recruits Toretto to take down Shaw, a gangster/terrorist/arms dealer whose goal is not particularly clear, but then it doesn’t need to be, does it? Shaw’s latest plan is to steal a military whatsit that can cause blackouts, and his gang of thugs, the minute you meet them, seem like the evil twins of Toretto’s — and it’s a credit to the movie’s cleverness that they actually address the parallels and get some great character beats in from Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Parker), two fellows whose roles in the previous films were to stand around and wait for something to do.
Hobbs’ carrot is a photo of Toretto’s former lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), knowing that Toretto, big softy that he is, won’t be able to resist…uh…chatting up old flames? You’d wonder why she never bothered to call him when he figured her dead, but apparently she’s under a nasty bout of amnesia and, big reveal, she’s working for Shaw’s team!
And O’Connor (Paul Walker), Toretto’s brother in law has a baby. The rest of them haven’t done much since their big score in Rio, save spent their cash and bask in opulence. For those keeping count, Han (Sung Kang) and his gal Gisele (Gal Gadot) round out the rest.
So Toretto ‘n’ his gang head to London, engage Shaw and his group in a great chase sequence, and discover Letty among the ne’er-do-wells. There’s the usual explosions, crashes, weird cars (Shaw’s custom job has a modified cow catcher which he uses to blast others either out of the way or straight over top of his own vehicle), and an interesting weapon that, once shot at the hood of a car, can be used to slam the brakes — it’s a great idea, but it never shows up again.
Shaw gets away, so Toretto and co. go on recon, leading to a great fight between Riley and Letty and Tej, Roman, and Shaw stooge Jah (The Raid: Redemption‘s Joe Taslim) in a tube station, and a bit later Toretto and Letty square off at one of London’s underground racing events (why one exists is an oddity, especially since the characters often point out how there’s a camera monitoring every corner of the city). And then there’s…
Basically a movie like this exists for the action, the fast cars, the characters, and the explosions. Fast & Furious 6 delivers. The story barely sticks together even if you try to ignore it (just how damn long is that runway in the last bit?), but its action sequences are less erratic (director Justin Lin has picked up a few things in interim between this and Fast 5), the characters work together so much more — well, they already worked, but we get to spend some more time with them — and the cars, while they’re close to being wedged in, are used with just enough cleverness that they justify the scenes even when nothing in the script does. For a series that could and likely is often written off as big, dumb action, few others who share a similar derision continue to improve like the Fast & Furious franchise — it knows where it’s going, and at every marker, it presses the gas just a little harder.
And please give Roman and Tej their own spin-off.