With Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges. Written by Chris Morgan. Directed by Justin Lin. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language. 130 minutes.
It goes without saying that as film series go on, they became pale imitations of themselves. Sometimes key cast members leave. Often the writing gets lazy since the title alone guarantees a certain return at the box office. Sometimes the first sequel is so bad it’s enough to kill off a potential series altogether. The curious and wholly unexpected exception turns out to be the “Fast & Furious” movies, which have actually gotten better.
The original 2001 film was a serviceable action flick about illegal street racing in which Dom (Vin Diesel) had a business on the side stealing electronics and Brian (Paul Walker), a local cop, went undercover to find him. In the process, Brian falls for Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and eventually goes rogue. Director Justin Lin came on with the third film in 2006 and things started to pick up. By 2011’s “Fast Five,” the series had not only accumulated an interesting recurring cast – including Dwayne Johnson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Tyrese Gibson – but the action scenes were gloriously over-the-top. The climactic chase in “Fast Five” – which included a runaway bank vault – had to be seen to be believed.
With FAST & FURIOUS 6, it’s clear the participants have gotten anything but lazy. The story features several locations but is centered in London where new villain Shaw (Luke Evans) is after a computer chip that will create a terrorist superweapon (it’s explained, but don’t worry about the details). Johnson returns as Federal agent Luke Hobbs and asks Dom to get his crew together to help bring down Shaw. Shaw’s team is almost a mirror image of Dom’s, engaging in lethal, high speed action with custom built cars. What lures Dom back is that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), his girlfriend from earlier in the series, may still be alive.
No one goes to these movies for the subtleties of plot or characterization, but Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan ensure the characters are more than stick figures who drive fast, something that couldn’t always be said for the early films in the series. These are characters with histories and various tensions between them, and that brings some depth to the material. We actually care how things will play out.
That said, the drawing card remains the chases, and the new movie keeps upping the ante. A major chase sequence on a highway involves a tank rolling over cars and firing at the infrastructure. In any other film, this would be the climactic action scene. Here it’s merely the set up for the really big sequence to come. Special note for those of a scientific bent: the laws of physics are suspended for this movie just as they are in Road Runner cartoons.
Will there be a “Fast & Furious 7?” No question. It may not be a surprise that there’s an extra scene tucked in the closing credits, but the appearance of a new villain (and who plays him) is practically a trailer for a film that has yet to be shot. Sure, this is a “check your brain at the door” movie. If you like high speed chases, fight scenes, and explosions, “Fast & Furious 6” delivers.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.