Film Review – Fast & Furious 6
Somewhere in this hypertensive ball of cars, crime, and machismo lays the display of something that resembles perpetual motion. The display looks like a series of films that not only refuse to die, but somehow pick up steam as they go, propelling themselves forward, using previous momentum to create new momentum. Like a snowball rolling downhill. The Fast & Furious franchise, now at installment six, seems to not only be perpetuating itself ever forward, but it’s collecting action film stars along the way, growing bigger as it inevitably continues on. This time around it’s absorbed Gina Carano (Haywire) and a surprise guest. It is all a bit of a wonder.
Trailing in the wake of the events of Fast Five, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew have spread out across the globe, attempting to live the good life with all the money they stole. Life resumes. Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) have their baby, while lovers Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) globe trot. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) are doing whatever it is…they do. It doesn’t take long, though, until agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson reprising his role from Fast Five) turns up on Toretto’s veranda offering a job that’s both too good to pass up and an opportunity to help Dom rebuild his broken family. It’s a job that requires the participation of Dom’s entire crew and results in full pardons. So off the Fast & Furious crew go to stop a special forces agent who’s gone rogue, using what’s termed as “vehicular warfare” to…uh…steal pieces of a computer device thing called the Nightshade, that will give him power to turn off power.
Essentially what we have here is an enigmatic collection of elements that comprise something that, when examined, seems like it shouldn’t, for all intents and purposes, work. Putting aside the quandary that is the franchise and its organic evolution, the stories that exist both inside each installment and as part of a bigger picture are equal parts dubiously inane and seamlessly intuitive. As ridiculous as the plots and scene structures may be, they come together naturally and leave an impression of simply writing themselves. If we are for a moment to take these films literally, they have made a progression that’s in line with the archetypes the films employ. In the original, the story starts off following an undercover cop infiltrating a group of street racers who rip off semis for the cargo. By this time around, the characters are in a continuous state of responding to the repercussions of the events of that first film. As the installments progress, the environment for both the cars and the characters elevate until we are no longer in a racing movie with criminal elements, but a crime movie with racing elements.
As the continuing theme of the films is firmly replanted again and again on the consuming audience, every sympathetic character is an outsider looking for a place to belong—their own family. Which is what Dominic is trying to create, so when he’s offered the opportunity to bring a family member once considered lost back into the fold, it’s a given that this is where we are going. So, for a little over two hours, characters reunite to save the world, fight for their freedom, and try to win back a lost member of the flock; it sounds more like a superhero tale in line with Speed Racer than the next Gone in Sixty Seconds. More or less, that’s really what we have here: a superhero movie.
The laws of physics are null and void in this world. Cars and people fly together. Crashes that result in cars tumbling fifteen times over themselves and stop in a smoldering pile of steel and rubber merely result in flesh wounds. No one even limps as they walk away from the destruction. People fly from extreme heights and land on moving vehicles as if they are all indeed one with each other. In this world cars take down planes, tanks drive through objects as if they are all made of paper, and Superman dives across an endless gap of freeway space to save Lois Lane. If you want cold, hard realism, you’ve come to the wrong place.
The film soars with an ultra-heightened sense of excitement when it kicks into action gear. A race through London at night that has the crew chasing the bad guy Shaw (Luke Evans) through crowded streets turns into a ballet of vehicular destruction as cars spiral into the air and tumble across the ground. It’s cathartic in its revelry. There is a point halfway through the second act where the story almost seems to teeter on collapsing under its own weight, as element of story after element gets piled on, each playing out a part of the genre tropes that will lead us to a penultimate collision. Luckily, the film saves itself with a daytime freeway chase that, coupled with the film’s climatic battle against a cargo plane, might be some of the most exhilarating 45 minutes or so filmed in an action movie in the last decade or more, or at least since the Rio vault heist in Fast Five.
At this point, it’s hard to separate and judge a Fast & Furious film on its own; they are an amalgam of collusive stories and genre elements that are most often found in television, not film franchises. Even James Bond, at 23 films and counting, doesn’t intertwine this amount of continuity; in fact, it tries its hardest to shy away from anything close to that. Which I feel is a part of what makes the FF franchise unique and self-perpetuating. By the time we reach the monumentally epic conclusion, a pre-credits stinger wantonly sets up the next film, and does so at the audience’s begging. As Vin Diesel himself was recently quoted, “I think the debate is whether it’s 7, 8, 9 or 7, 8, 9, 10. I know, it doesn’t even make sense.”
Final Grade: A