May 27, 2013. The “Fast & Furious” franchise is one that does better and better, or “gains speed” so to speak, with each new installment. No longer content to dominate a lame movie month like April, “Fast & Furious 6” is taking over the Memorial Day weekend box office and surely becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. The films themselves have never been that great – they’re heavy on car chases, bad jokes, and explosions – but they always make for a great party in the theater. It’s hard to deny that the new film makes for the greatest party yet.
2011’s “Fast Five” was like a convention of characters from the somewhat disjointed first four installments. Almost all of your favorites are back again. There’s streetcar king Dominic Turetto (franchise face Vin Diesel), cop-turned-criminal Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), government agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), comic relief driver Roman (Tyrese Gibson), comic relief techie Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), doomed Tokyo driver Han (Sung Kang) and his girlfriend Giselle (Gal Godot). We’re missing Eva Mendes’s federal agent, but another agent played by MMA star Gina Carano is shoehorned into the group to make up for it. Returning to the franchise is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s girlfriend who was “killed” in the fourth movie. Yes, they explain her re-emergence with the old “you saw an explosion, not a body” plot device.
These movies have never been big on storyline, but the one we get here is that Dom gets the team together to take down terrorist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). The team participates mostly in order to get pardoned by Hobbs for their past crimes, but Dom does it to pursue Letty, who for some reason is working for Shaw. Of course, most of Shaw’s operations are vehicle-based, and we get action scenes involving cars, trucks, a tank, an airplane, and a nifty little go-cart thingy. The action scenes are exciting and improbable as always, but they’re hard to follow. During the climactic airplane scene, I couldn’t keep track of who was on the ground, on the plane, or somewhere in between (there were, in fact, quite a few in between). I blame it on the huge cast, the movie doesn’t want you to forget all the characters that are a part of the sequence, so it has to keep jumping around between them.
The film, like many blockbusters, contains a scene after the first few end credits that sets up the next movie. The film uses this type of scene as wisely as any I’ve ever seen. The scene takes us back to an earlier release in the franchise that purists will tell you actually takes place after the events of this film. This means that we’re finally caught up chronologically, so all bets are off when it comes to who survives the next movie. This movie does sacrifice some suspense since we know that certain characters have to survive the majority of the film to make it to this scene. The scene also sets up the villain for the next installment, and it’s a doozie.
“Fast & Furious 6” isn’t going to win over anybody who doesn’t like the franchise. Nor can I imagine many people liking it if they’re unfamiliar with the rest of the series (people like me get to take the rapid character introductions for granted, newcomers may find them confusing). But the film has a huge built-in audience, and they all seemed to get a kick out of it. This franchise isn’t running out of gas anytime soon. One can only imagine how great the party will be when the seventh film rolls around.
Two Stars out of Five.
“Fast & Furious 6” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language. Its running time is 130 minutes.