Until I sat down to watch Fast & Furious 6 recently, I had never watched any of the previous five movies in the franchise from beginning to end. Obviously the series has come a long way in the past decade, because I was under the impression these movies were supposed be about illegal street races. Fast & Furious 6, however, features an A-team of world renowned thieves teaming up with federal agents to take down a gang of international terrorists. Cars are also involved.
The best thing Fast & Furious 6 has going for it is that it’s a completely brain-dead action movie on steroids. Under Justin Lin’s direction, our team of intrepid heroes pursues a team of car-jacking terrorists through the streets of London and Tenerife, Spain at a breakneck pace. Muscle cars tear ass through city streets at speeds that should break the sound barrier; vehicles flip through the air; explosions rip public thoroughfares apart; and when there are no cars left to be driven in a wildly irresponsible manner, the characters are content to simply beat the hell out of each other with their fists.
Is there a reason for any of these sequences to exist? No. But teenage boys will love it, and my inner child certainly appreciated the level of care and skill that went into setting up and filming the movie’s more extraordinary action sequences.
Lin sets up a series of intricate action set pieces, and spends the movie tearing them apart in astounding fashion. He’s equally adept at shooting fist fights, shoot-outs, and car chases, and there’s plenty of each in this movie. Lin’s work isn’t the best I’ve seen in the past few years, but he’s an absolute rarity in that he can coherently juggle different types action in a way that more critically respected directors such as Christopher Nolan cannot.
If Fast & Furious 6 suffers from any fatal weakness it’s this: Fast & Furious 6 is an incredibly stupid movie that does not seem to realize that it is a stupid movie. The plot is absolutely convoluted and ridiculous, and yet the filmmakers treat the material with the utmost seriousness.
The plot involves a federal agent, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), enlisting the help of Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his merry band of outlaws to capture a criminal named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Why does the United States government need a ragtag band of criminals to capture another criminal when it has the resources of the CIA and the military’s Special Forces at its disposal? Don’t over-think it.
Anyway, Shaw wants some experimental chip than can wreak havoc on technology. The device is an absolute MacGuffin, and its abilities are never really detailed. Apparently it can do a lot of damage, and this bad guy wants to steal it from the British and sell it to generic terrorists. That certainly sounds like a job for The Rock and Vin Diesel.
So Hobbs manages to recruit our anti-hero by showing him a picture of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and telling him she’s still alive. Apparently she was killed in one of the previous movies, but through a silly plot contrivance, we learn that she survived the attempt on her life, and now she’s working for the man who tried to kill her… only she doesn’t know it because she has amnesia. So there’s that.
All of this sounds like the premise for a completely tongue-in-cheek send-up of old action movies. However, the filmmakers largely treat this ridiculous material with stone-faced earnestness. Yes, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris provide comic relief, and yes, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel all but wink at the camera, but the movie itself just doesn’t seem to realize how stupid it is.
That unfortunately leads to many, many eye-rolling, cringe-inducing moments. For all of the movie’s high-octane action sequences, this flick devotes a substantial portion of his 130 minute running time to the development of the plot and its characters. That’s an absolute waste, because this movie isn’t The Dark Knight. If Fast & Furious 6 had been a 90 minute romp devoid of any plot at all, it would still have been better than the embarrassingly earnest movie we’ve received.
I stayed away from this franchise for nearly a decade, because I off-handedly assumed that these movies were terminally stupid. Having seen an entry in this franchise, I can say that my expectations were met on that front. However, Fast & Furious 6 boasts some of the best action sequences I’ve seen out of any movie this year, and the assembled cast is surprisingly charismatic. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more entries. I just hope future installments will involve more car chases and less exposition.