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Fast and Furious 6 Review: Quite the Ridiculous Ride

After venturing to the latest high-octane instalment in the blockbuster mainstay franchise with The Fast and the Furious 6 (and finding it to be a cartoonishly delicious action flick) I began to ponder if in the history of film if there was ever a sixth instalment in a franchise to either peak in quality among its later entries or at least maintain its spark. Star Wars springs to mind but that seems like a bit of a cheat considering the format of the instalments as does the simple fact most fans (myself included) feel as if the new entries while very fun in their own rights, pale in comparison to the original trilogy.  The adventures of James Bond also immediately surfaces as an example for longevity but looking to that unshakable franchise as an apt comparison as well seems off. The closest I could come up with outside of including reboots and adaptations of book series would be the nostalgic treat that was 2006’s Rocky Balboa. So for an industry built on the output of sequels I would say that what director Justin Lin and co. have done with this franchise in terms of financial success and critic and fan reaction is nothing short of a benchmark.  But I digress, shocking late-series explosion notwithstanding, how much fun is Fast and Furious 6? The answer to that is: a lot. While this instalment may be lacking the kick provided by the introduction of the heist element in Fast Five, number six instead opts to supersize the vehicular mayhem and above all else finally resigns to the fact – a fact seeded in this franchise from the beginning – that this series is for all intents and purposes live-action Looney Tunes but instead of Bugs Bunny we get The Rock smashing in people’s faces. At the climax, we get not one but two lengthy chase sequences, both of which have been lovingly highlighted in the many, well-received promotional spots. Yes, the highway tank chase and cars vs. plane set pieces are as rousing as one could have hoped and even when surrounded by inane dialogue and standard-order performances, it’s so damn difficult not to be caught up in the moment. It’s almost as if Lin has mastered some sort of hidden niche that so many action directors have been missing all these years. The man has somehow figured out how to use the dopiest elements to his advantage and in succumbing to those outlandish and outwardly dumb conventions he’s gone and cracked the code.  The whole cast is back for Fast and Furious 6 including a favourite (?) written off as dead during Fast and Furious (i.e. number four) in the form of Dom’s (Vin Diesel) love interest Letty, once again played by the rough and tumble Michelle Rodriguez. Without going into some sort of directionless rant about how inherently stupid it is to bring back a character that was so obviously deceased (and actually acted as a driving force for the motives of many of our protagonists) I will simply judge how the return was handled, and you know what, it wasn’t that terrible.  Conveniently stricken with amnesia after her “fatal” crash and “murder” she has teamed up with a troupe of villainous car-loving thieves lead by the rather sadistic Owen Shaw (Luke Evans who does serviceable if not outwardly memorable work) who is trying to steal components for the all-important MacGuffan bomb. In exchange for pardons for Dom’s crew (I won’t run through the roster – you should know them by now) and the chance to find Letty, The Rock’s Luke Hobbs sicks the best in the business on this determined master criminal. The first meeting between Dom and Letty is a tad tense to say the least but she feels something for him that can’t be explained. Not to overtly spoil anything that develops between these two, I did appreciate the forgoing of the mega-cliché of having her magically regain her memories. This returning dynamic is however introduced at the expense of the relationship that developed between Dom and the Rio cop (Elsa Pataky) who was on his trail in Fast Five. Not only was that bond more compelling it’s written off with a single line never to be touched upon again.  Joining in on the side of the law is UFC fighter Gina Carano, last seen headlining Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and as one would expect, she is given some ultra-badass fight sequences, with one versus Letty in particular standing out. It’s also hugely rewarding to see Dom and Agent Hobbs working together and if a skirmish with these two cooperatively dolling out the hurt doesn’t win you over, you’re likely in the wrong theater. The members of Shaw’s crew also get their moment to shine, all bringing a specific skill set to the table, a cliché which is refreshingly called out early on.  So while I won’t defend Fast and Furious 6 on the “sometimes you need to turn off your brain” or “it’s just mindless entertainment, chill out” level I certainly won’t sit here and pretend I wasn’t caught up in the action and energized by the combination of camp, comedy and all-out brawn. It’s the rare sixth instalment that doesn’t willingly insult and if anything has more to offer than what most “original” blockbusters are peddling.


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