Justin Lin, whose talent as a director is underappreciated, breaks up the anticipated car chases with some fantastic fight sequences.
You pretty much know what you’re getting with a Fast & Furious movie. If you go in expecting anything more than car chases and things being gratuitously blown up/destroyed, you have only yourself to blame. Director Justin Lin, who has directed every Fast & Furious movie since joining the franchise with the mostly forgotten third installment The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has given the films confidence in themselves by focusing on their strengths and being unapologetic for their weaknesses. Fast & Furious 6 includes some of the best action sequences in all of the films and a plot that, while weak, is at least more grounded than past storylines.
After pulling a magnificent and lucrative heist in Fast Five, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew have scattered themselves across the world, spending their millions as they avoid police from several countries. After a visit from federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dom must pull his team together once again for the most important job they’ve had yet: figuring out if Dom’s girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who died at the end of Fast & Furious, is really alive. According to Hobbs, Letty is working for Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who is attempting to steal a device which will be worth billions of dollars on the black market and could give any buyer the chance to completely annihilate the country of his or her choosing.
The problem Dom & Co. immediately realize is that not only is Shaw a brilliant tactician, he has a fleet of armored drag racers that make their cars look like Hot Wheels. Worse, Letty really is working for Shaw, though apparently she has no memory of anything before a year and a half ago when she woke up in a hospital. Former-FBI-agent-turned-Dom’s BFF Brian (Paul Walker) feels responsible for what happened to Letty since he was the one who put her in a dangerous situation to begin with. Brian turns himself in to U.S. authorities as a way to get close to someone who can give him more information about Shaw. It works (with a few hiccups) and the team is able to figure out a way to beat Shaw at his own game.
Lin, whose talent as a director is underappreciated, breaks up the anticipated car chases with some fantastic fight sequences. Ex-MMA fighter Gina Carano plays Hobbs’ right-hand woman, Agent Riley, and has two brutal fights with Rodriguez’s Letty. Taking it a step further, at one point Lin splits the action between two fights taking place simultaneously: Letty versus Riley and Han (Sung Kang) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) versus Jah (Joe Taslim). Taslim was one of the stars of last year’s The Raid: Redemption, and his martial arts skills are on full display again. While most directors would forget to give the audience some variety, Lin keeps switching the types of action the audience is getting.
Bringing Rodriguez’s character back from the grave was a bold move, but that’s how Fast & Furious operates. Was it necessary? No, but it does give the story more weight than previous installments have had. Dom takes center stage in Fast & Furious 6. In the past, Dom has only had money or respect as motivation; here he has revenge and love. While Diesel’s style of acting can be a little too intense when it doesn’t need to be, it is mostly warranted this time. Also, more screen time for Diesel means less screen time for Walker, who is still struggling to give anything more than a stone-faced performance.
Evans makes an excellent antagonist for Dom, both charming and menacing with a face you just want to punch. One of the movie’s biggest missteps is that it does not introduce him early enough. We hear about Owen Shaw and are supposed to know he’s a bad guy, but we haven’t met him or seen any of his work. Lin eventually corrects this, but it’s a little late. In the meantime, though, we get Johnson as flexed as ever and delivering the movie’s best one-liners, so we’ll call it a draw. | Matthew Newlin