I was a bit late to Fast and Furious 6 since I was out of time when it opened on Memorial Day weekend, but I finally caught up with it this last weekend and I’ve gotta say, Holy Crap. I am still riding that adrenaline high.
But first, story time. Fast Six is, obviously, the sixth film in the franchise which began with The Fast and the Furious all the way back in 2001. The second and third films weren’t really direct sequels to the first one, bringing in new characters and whatnot. The first direct sequel to the first movie was actually the fourth movie, simply titled Fast and Furious. This movie brought back all the original stars from the first movie. It became a modestly-budgeted hit so Universal upped the budget for 2011’s Fast Five, which ditched most of the street-racing elements from the previous films and was more of a setpiece-driven heist movie. Now 2013 brings us Fast and Furious 6, which picks up right where Fast Five left off.
Whew. Now that that’s out of the way, I must confess that I have only seen the fifth and sixth films. I really didn’t care much about the franchise until Fast Five came out. Heck, I didn’t even really care about Fast Five until it came out and got surprisingly solid reviews. I decided to check it out, but even then I didn’t bother until it came out on DVD.
When I finally did see it, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a well-made, solidly entertaining action film. One thing about it that I’ve thought about a lot is that I really didn’t give a damn about any of the characters. Fast Five featured a large ensemble cast with pretty much every major character from the previous films. I had no idea who most of them were. The plot itself was straightforward enough, they were trying to steal $100 million from an evil drug baron. But there were a lot of character-based subplots that really had no impact on me whatsoever. Much is made in the film about family and brotherhood and so on and so forth but I really didn’t care about any of it.
The interesting thing to me about this is that, the way I see it, my not caring that much about the characters wasn’t really the movie’s fault. It’s clear that the filmmakers cared about these characters, and if you were a longtime fan of the franchise I saw no reason why you wouldn’t be happy with this film. Fast Five isn’t really all that bad at characterization, my indifference was due more to the fact that I hadn’t seen any of the previous films. The characters were all likable enough and they each get their time in the spotlight. I rooted for them, I just wasn’t particularly invested in any of them.
I had a similarly detached enthusiasm for Fast Six, which I was looking forward to as a fun summer blockbuster, but expected to not care about the plot very much.
Also, Dwayne “Don’t-Call-Me-The-Rock” Johnson.
One of my favorite aspects of Fast Five, and one that got a lot of critical praise, was the addition of Dwayne Freaking Johnson as the no-nonsense, tough-as-nails Agent Hobbs, who kicks off the sixth movie’s plot by recruiting Vin Diesel and his crew to help him track down a new group of bad guys, led by an ex-SAS soldier named Owen Shaw. Also, Agent Hobbs’ new partner in this movie is played by Gina Carano.
This is Gina Carano, in case you were wondering. She’s an ex-MMA fighter who made her film debut in a little movie called Haywire last year. She’s…well, look at her. She’s badass! Her role in Fast Six is fairly minor, but she does get not one but TWO fight scenes with Michelle Rodriguez. And she certainly looks good alongside Dwayne “Samoan Thor” Johnson.
I’d watch a movie that was just these two fighting crime any day of the week. The “Samoan Thor” thing came from the movie, by the way. Much as I would like to take credit for it, I cannot. Also, if you haven’t seen Haywire it’s really worth checking out.
In one sense, my response to Fast Six was much the same as my response to Fast Five: lots of fun, but I remained largely indifferent to most of it. Much hullaballoo is made over the return of Letty, Vin Diesel’s character’s old girlfriend played by Michelle Rodriguez, who apparently was thought to have been killed in the fourth movie, and whose return was teased at the end of Fast Five. She’s back, and she’s working with the bad guys! OH NOES!!
Part of me was like “Eh, who cares?” and the other part of me was like “Michelle Rodriguez vs. Gina Carano! Awesome!” I think it’s safe to say that these two thoughts balanced each other out in the end.
But enough about plot and characters! What about the action??
Well, it delivers.
And then some.
Suffice to say that Fast Six has some of the most outrageously entertaining action sequences I have seen in a long time, quite possibly ever. This kind of movie is why I love action movies. The action scenes in this film are expertly choreographed, and edited in such a way as to ensure that you can easily follow the chaos unfolding on screen.
One of the most common criticisms I’ve heard of modern action films is that the superquick editing and shaky camera work make it difficult to follow what’s going on. It’s a legitimate complaint, I suppose, though to be honest that kind of style has never really bothered me much. It can be off-putting at first but I don’t find it hard to get used to. But still, Fast Six does an admirable job of making huge chaotic action setpieces easy to follow. Director Justin Lin is showing himself to be a fine action director, and he deserves credit for coordinating massive chase scenes that are fun and intense without being confusing or overwhelming. Well, they can be a bit overwhelming at times, but in a good way if you’re an action fan.
How else to describe the film’s EPIC final battle, in which a massive plane is attempting to take off but finding it difficult due to the fact that the heroes have attached their vehicles to it by shooting titanium cables into the plane’s wings, and the cars are dangling off the wings with people fighting BETWEEN THE CARS IN MIDAIR while at least three more individual battles are happening inside the plane? Words seriously do not begin to do this scene justice. It’s one of the most terrifically exciting action sequences I’ve seen in quite some time. I have no idea of the logistics involved in staging such a massive sequence, but the filmmakers pulled it off marvelously.
Also, this happens.
Don’t see Fast Six for realism. This is the kind of movie in which cars flip upside down and skid on their roofs for several meters and the occupants look only mildly annoyed, and robotic humanoid Paul Walker is capable of thrashing roomfuls of thugs.
Yes, this guy.
See it for fun. See it for spectacle.
See it for this guy.
The stunt work in this film also deserves credit for pulling off all kinds of crazy shit. There’s one stunt in particular during the big highway chase that was so ludicrously awesome it had people in my theater (myself included) clapping and cheering, and at least one audible cry of “WHAAAATTT???”
It isn’t this particular stunt, but it takes place during this sequence. Also, the interwebs inform me that a real tank drove over approximately 250 cars during the filming of this sequence.
If you’re an action fan there is no way you will not enjoy this film. The plot is ho-hum and the characters again meant little to me, but the action is expertly staged and the film is never less than entertaining.
And referring back to the title of this post, make sure to stay through the first part of the closing credits, or you might miss a surprise cameo from one of my favorite action stars, whose identity I will not reveal but whose first name…
…starts with a J.
Until next time, true believers!