A film review by Craig J. Koban May 28, 2013


2013, PG-13, 130 mins.


Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner  /  Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto  /  Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs  /  Luke Evans as Owen Shaw  /  Michelle Rodriguez as Letty

Directed by Justin Lin  /  Screenplay by Chris Morgan

There are bad trashy films and then there are good trashy films.  FAST AND FURIOUS 6 – or FAST SIX or FURIOUS SIX, however you slice it – is preposterously trashy, but it’s also slick and relatively proficiently made preposterous trash.  

Enjoyment of this sixth – count ‘em…SIXTH! – film in the pure auto porn/bromance action series will largely depend on your fondness of its five predecessors, not to mention your willingness to completely suspend your disbelief of cars – and humans – defying the natural laws of physics.  If the sight of seeing slick European roadsters and American muscle cars pulling down a gigantic military cargo plane with massive harpoons does not turn your crank, then FAST 6 won't be your cup of tea.  For all others yearning to see a display of absurdly unfeasible demolition derby action, then the film will be a rush of big and dumb high-octane fun. 

I’ve been a FAST AND FURIOUS apologist.  I admit it.  I especially liked the previous film, FAST FIVE, which – as far as fifth films in a series go – achieved the impossible by taking characters and storylines that were growing staler by the minute and retrofitting them into a fresh and exciting heist/caper thriller.  That film – as subversively and unashamedly silly as it was - breathed new creative life into a series that was starting to run cold in 2009’s FAST AND FURIOUS.  This new model, if I can call it that, continues right where FAST FIVE finished off and lovingly continues that film’s penchant for grease monkey camaraderie and playfully bombastic and over-the-top action sequences that get more fiendishly – but enjoyably – improbable by the minute.  Six films into the series, it’s kind of commendable how the makers are still managing to find new and twistedly novel ways to stage what would be obligatory car chases. 

If the last film felt like an OCEAN’S ELEVEN heist flick, then FAST SIX comes off as more James Bondian, as the heroes have to come back together to hunt down and apprehend a globe-trotting criminal/terrorist.  The baddie in question is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, a decent British thespian that's somewhat stranded within a relatively dull and one-note protagonist) is attempting to launch a well-oiled plan to gather components together to create what would be an unfathomably dangerous and expensive weapon to his enemies.  U.S. special agent Luke Hobbs (the positively swelling out of his shirt Dwayne Johnson) reappears from the last film and seeks out Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has been living safely and secretly in an overseas country without extradition laws (especially considering his criminal actions at the end of FAST FIVE).  Luke wants Dominic to help him catch Shaw, but Dominic steadfastly refuses. 



Alas, Luke has an ace up his sleeve.  He gives Dominic some Intel on Shaw’s operation, which has a photo of Dominic's presumed-dead ex-girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who appears to be in collusion with Shaw.  Dominic decides to join Luke’s cause, but only if he can bring his old crew in on the job and get full pardons from the American government.  Luke relents to Dominic’s request, and once all members of Dom’s team are reassembled – including his BFF and new daddy, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, as stoically vanilla as ever) – the mission begins to take shape.  Complications begin to come hellishly to the forefront, such as the revelation that Letty – cue the cheesy soap opera music – has amnesia and can’t remember anything of her days with Dom and the boys.  Not only does Dom have the task of catching a nefarious criminal mastermind, but he now has to lure Letty back from the dark side and help her reclaim her memories.   

Movies like this are unalterably defined by, yes, their action scenes, and director Justin Lin (in his fourth straight FAST AND FURIOUS outing) spares no expense at crafting sequences of vehicular warfare that are simultaneously exhilarating and make you scratch your head in befuddled incredulity.  The last film contained a series benchmark for over-the-top craziness, showcasing Dom and Brian racing through the crowded streets of Rio, destroying everything in their paths, while dragging bank faults behind them (inane…sure…but exciting…absolutely).  Lin justifiably tries to amp up everything here to head-smacking extremes of mayhem, and mostly delivers.  There’s an early scene involving a high speed chase through London with the villain sporting a makeshift car with a built-in ramp on the front end that topples over any cars attempting to crash head-on into it; nifty, if not kind of limitlessly far-fetched. 

There are two other set pieces that deserve mention, one of which involves a spectacularly envisioned and sustained highway chase involving Dom and company in their beefed up autos trying desperately to stop Shaw – who’s in a tank! – from getting away, which results in a barrage of destruction that would rival any war movie.  This sequence ends with one character being hurtled through the air by a crashing car, catching another character that too is freefalling to what should be a bloody death, and ends with both laughably and comfortably landing on another car with barely a scratch on their respective bodies.  There are ample fisticuffs as well, especially during a bone crushing battle between Dom and Luke tag teaming versus Shaw and a brute that is ridiculously bigger than Johnson himself.  Even the women refreshingly get in on the action, as Rodriguez and series newcomer, Gina Carano (from Steven Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE), have a donnybrook to end all woman-on-woman donnybrooks.   

A lot of sequences like this will draw endless snickers from audience members, but they are done with such a sly and unpretentious wink to viewers that they’re hard to criticize.  The batty-as-hell climax involving the aforementioned military cargo plane cranks up the unbridled ridiculousness to eleven on the WTF meter, but you can sense Lin’s unbridled and fetishistic passion for trying to top one amped up action set piece after another.   More often than not, you find yourself in awe of what’s transpiring, followed by a laugh, and then concluding with a hearty smack to the head by the sheer nonsensicality of it all.  Not all art – and trashy art – has to be steeped in Earth-bound reality to be entertaining. 

Listen, FAST SIX isn’t faultless.  It lacks the career rejuvenating freshness of FAST FIVE, not to mention that Evan’s Shaw never emerges as a memorably scary or intriguing villain.  The film is also a bit too heavy on back-story exposition and would-be dramatic scenes that seem kind of disingenuous to the parade of madness that permeates the action.  Using amnesia – one of the cheapest staples of providing character conflict in drama – to define and reintroduce Letty into the series is an obtrusively eye rolling plot development.  Nonetheless, nitpicking story dynamics here may be kind of redundant, because FAST SIX is pure junk food for unrefined souls that require easy cinematic nourishment.  Ludicrousness here is not only a staple ingredient; it’s also the film’s unapologetic mantra.  

And, trust me, there’s going to be a FAST SEVEN.  For sure.  Stay through the end credits.

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