Theatrical Review: Fast & Furious 6

Owen Shaw is a ruthless criminal mastermind who has been running roughshod through Europe, committing his own brand of “vehicular warfare” in pursuit of a computer chip that can cause a communications blackout for entire countries. In pursuit of Shaw is Federal Agent Luke Hobbs and his newly-minted partner Riley Hicks. With his investigation, Hobbs has found similarities between Shaw’s methods and that of the team put together by Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor, who Hobbs previously encountered in Rio de Janeiro. But something else has been discovered as well; Toretto’s former lover, Letty, who was believed to be dead, has been seen as part of Shaw’s crew. Now, Hobbs has tracked down Dom Toretto and has made him the offer to both find Letty and gain full pardons for his crew in exchange for their help in taking down Shaw.

That’s the nutshell premise to Fast & Furious 6, the obvious sixth film in the Fast & Furious franchise, from director Justin Lin, marking his fourth time at the helm of this series. Now I’ve mentioned this before (and surely well again) that just talking about this series brings a standard set of eye-rolling with some moviegoers. And while I love this series, and really enjoyed this film, I still don’t expect that to change the minds of those that look upon it in a downward direction. With Fast Five this venerable series changed it’s direction from being solely about the underground street racing culture to taking on heist film elements. That direction change continues further with Fast & Furious 6, going from heist film to out-and-out over-the-top crime action, but still maintaining elements that it’s known for. As I said, I love the series, and thought Fast Five was about as good as it gets with this. Fast & Furious 6 is still quite a bit of fun for it’s fans, though I do think it drops down a bit from it’s prior iteration.

The constant though that keeps this entertaining comes down to two things; a very entertaining cast of anti-hero characters who it’s audience have grown quite comfortable with and high-speed action that just gets upped a notch with each film. Both are certainly very apparent here, though I think the characters get a little short-changed while the action gets upped dramatically, especially during the film’s back third. Now keep in mind, when I’m talking about the characters here, I certainly know that we’re not talking about Oscar-calibre depth, I’m well aware of that, it’s just that the stakes for this crew seemed a little more grounded in the prior film that it does here. Conversely, the climactic action gets upped so much more that it seems like it’s more at home in a Japanese anime film than a live-action film. It’s all still quite a bit of fun, but it didn’t quite hit me with the same balance that Fast Five did.

The film still looks fantastic and even though the action scenes stretch credibility in whole new manners, they’re still very entertaining to watch. I don’t think of these movies as being high art by any means, but they’re certainly high state-of-the-art in their technical aspects.

Returning from the previous movies, we have Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Godot, Elsa Pataky and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. There’s an obvious chemistry at work here and it certainly goes a far way in projecting this franchise’s definition of family. As I said, those of us who are fans of the series are comfortable with these players and the characters they play. They don’t really rock the boat a whole lot here, though there are a couple of little surprises.

New players this time around include Gina Carano, Joe Taslim and Luke Evans. Carano plays Hobbs’ new partner, Riley Hicks. Prior to this film, Carano is best known for her MMA talents and her starring role in Stephen Soderbergh’s Haywire. I think the absolute world of Carano, she’s always fun to watch and she doesn’t disappoint here at all, though with such a large cast, she doesn’t get the chance to be as showy as what she was in Haywire but still, she’s a welcome addition. Joe Taslim plays Jah, a member of Shaw’s crew. Prior to this movie, Taslim was best known for being in the Indonesian action thriller, The Raid: Redemption and I certainly thought it was cool to see his addition here and he certainly gets a chance to show his action chops in a nice scene with Gibson and Kang. Luke Evans plays Owen Shaw, the main villain of the piece and before this movie, he’s been in such films as The Three Musketeers, Immortals and The Raven. Most recently, Evans was in the Anchor Bay/WWE co-production No One Lives in which he played quite the twisted character, so he’s no stranger to a villainous role. Evans is pretty darn good here and I get more impressed with him each time I see him. This won’t win him any awards, but still he commands the screen and can certainly hold his own with the leads.

I really did have a good time with Fast & Furious 6 though as I said above, I don’t think it quite hits the same balance that Fast Five had. I’d mentioned the short-changing of the characters and part of that short-changing includes just how large this cast is, and added to that was that Shaw’s crew was pretty much, as it’s termed by Tyrese Gibson’s Roman character, the “evil-twin” version of Toretto’s crew. On one side, that’s really cool to see but on the other side, that puts this film as having just as many characters as a Tolkien adaptation but with only 130 minutes to deal with them all. Now again, I’m not expecting award-winning stuff here, but still something that grounds this more. It’s still a lot of fun, there’s a lot of thrills, but it’s not quite as “on” as what the prior film was. By the film’s end though, we’re left in a place that can return the series to it’s roots, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing at this point in the series, especially after the little teaser of what’s to come right as the credits get ready to roll. Even with my own issues with the film, I’d still recommend Fast & Furious 6 pretty highly, especially if you’re already a fan of the series. As I understand it right now, the seventh film in the series is already on the books for coming out next year, but this time around in the hands of director James Wan, who’s best known for the first Saw movie. It will certainly be interesting to see what comes next.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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