Fast and the Furious, the most profitable car racing franchise to date, shifts into sixth gear and speeds back onto the big screen this May for more crowd-pleasing action thrills. Big-muscle favourites Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Paul Walker return to their respective roles, revving up more excitement, in the franchise that just keeps on going… and going… and going. Justin Lin’s swan song, the testosterone-fueled Fast and the Furious 6, antes up on more balletic pandemonium, but leaves behind the charm at the core of Fast Five’s success. If the fourth and fifth installments were two steps forward in the right direction, the sixth definitely takes one back, forgetting a few important lessons learnt along the way. That being said, the most faithful fans won’t be disappointed.
The Fast and the Furious series proves to be an anomaly in Hollywood. Just how did this overcooked racer flick, that focuses on fast girls and fast cars, actually manage to make it to a sixth title some may ask? Heaven alone knows. The franchise has had many ups and downs over the years, gaining and losing many different characters along the way. The real barometer of success for The Fast and the Furious, however, has never been its story telling, its visuals, nor its stars, but rather the dollars flying in at box office tills. As long as there are fans willing to pay to see a Fast and the Furious movie, there will always be room for a bigger and “better” sequel.
Bigger isn’t always better, of course. Fast Six certainly proves that. Despite the presence of a runaway armoured tank, multiple car chase sequences, over the top action and a climactic battle inside a Russian plane, there seems to be no thread to hold it all together. Lin shoves the dessert (the delicious action) down our throats, without offering any veggies (emotion) or meat (the story). Fast Five, which shifted the emphasis from racing to heist genre, offered a whole lot more. Of course, no matter how silly and outlandish, the new entry will serve up enough action for die-hard fans to drool over.
It all opens with a credit sequence that recaps the last twelve years of Fast and Furious movies, from the very first in 2001 until now. Everything the team has been through has led up to this moment. Retired con Dom Toretto and his “familia” are enjoying their earnings from the previous film in a secluded location, away from the United States, when security service agent Luke Hobbs pays an unexpected visit. He requests the aid of Toretto and his crew to catch a ruthless gang of military experts and also informs him of the presumed dead Letty’s involvement. Before long, the team is assembled once again, and Toretto finds himself back where he belongs; on the street, racing and fighting for his freedom.
Possibly the biggest flaw with Fast Six is that, for a film that has characters that bend the laws on believability, it takes itself way too seriously. I draw the line in the sand when the main characters start leaping from cars across bridges to catch other characters mid-air, then land without any real injuries. Justin Lin is certainly aware of the silliness of it all, but does nothing to steer the film to any plausible outcome.
With so many characters at its disposal, the actors pass the baton between each other for screen time. Most of them seemed starved for attention, while Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel take the bulk share. Even Paul Walker now plays second fiddle to some of the bigger names on set. Again, this seems a tragic misstep on behalf of the writers who sidestep the importance of continuing with the winning formula of Fast Five.
It goes without saying that there will be a sequel. And while most fans will welcome the idea, I’m trusting that all those involved deliver on promises to take the franchise to new heights. The Rock’s biceps, Vin Diesel’s growl, Rodriguez’s stare and Tyrese’s humour aren’t enough reasons to continue the franchise. We need an epic story to match the epic action.