The most appropriate answer one can give when asked if the new “Fast & Furious 6” is any good is a simple one: “It’s another ‘Fast & Furious.’” It doesn’t sound like a great response, but it tells the asker everything they need to know. It’s no better or worse than any other middling installment in this bizarrely lucrative franchise and if you’re a fan, you’re bound to enjoy this one as well.
After the events of “Fast Five,” Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and their crew are rich. However, they’re also internationally wanted criminals and are unable to return to the US. Soon, special agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tracks them down and because he’s unable to extradite them, he asks them for their help in capturing a former British special forces officer turned criminal mastermind named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). But there’s a twist. Dominic’s thought-to-be-dead girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has been spotted alive and working with Shaw.
It’s one of those stories of an inconsequential nature, much like every story told throughout this franchise. It would be hard for even a fan to argue that the writing is solid, given its ridiculous dialogue, laughable scene set-ups, undeveloped side stories and thin characters. “Fast & Furious 6” follows suit and little is actually explored or discussed. Even when Dominic and Letty cross paths for the first time, the scene lasts all of five seconds (which is not an exaggeration), despite their relationship being the primary narrative supposedly pushing this thing forward. But when these scenes begin and end in the blink of an eye, like the opening moments when the crew requires little coaxing to once again put their lives on the line, it’s not necessarily due to bad writing, but rather a desire to bypass the fluff and get to the action, showing a firm understanding that story structure is not what these movies are about.
The reason the franchise succeeds as much as it does, despite its vapid stupidity, is because it knows exactly what it is. It has a goal, however shallow it may be, and it delivers exactly what it promises. This series is about action—and lots of it—and the crazier it gets, the more enjoyable it becomes. What began as a franchise with smaller, more contained action scenes that took place during street races has become a full blown extravaganza with planes, tanks, death defying stunts and bodies flying through the air and landing unscathed. Even its subtitles zoom on and off the screen in an adrenaline fueled panic. This is absurdity to the nth degree.
But it’s once again that self-awareness that makes it work, never losing its surprisingly solid sense of humor, despite some overbearing dramatics spoken in muted seriousness about “making things right,” as if any of what’s going on actually matters. What’s perhaps even more surprising, however, is the technical expertise behind the film. Although director Justin Lin may not know how to flesh out a story or wring out performances from his actors that exceed anything above “average,” he knows how to stage an action scene. Responsible for the last four films (and one of the best episodes of the underappreciated television show “Community” called “Modern Warfare”), he knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat, even if you don’t really care about the consequences of said action. His fluid camerawork, even during the film’s most hectic moments, allows for a good view of what’s going on. Implementing the shaky cam technique most action movies rely on these days would be doing a disservice to the fantastic action on display.
Yet the fact remains that this is still overly loud and exceedingly dumb. There’s no real substance, no interesting story and its runtime of two hours and ten minutes is unnecessarily bloated. Many will have likely checked out far before the credits roll around out of sheer frustration for a movie that doesn’t know when to quit, but that’s the series in a nutshell. For better or worse, this is exactly what you expect. From the rap infused soundtrack to the explosive finale that takes place on the longest runway ever, this is indeed a “Fast & Furious” movie, and for fans of the franchise, that news couldn’t be any better.
Fast & Furious 6 receives 3/5