Fast & Furious 6 Review

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Director Justin Lin returns with Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and the rest of the crew from Fast Five to attempt to capture lightning in the bottle once more for this used-to-be tired racing franchise. Fast & Furious 6 isn’t that perfect blend of action, racing and mindless popcorn fun like Fast Five, often going a little too over-the-top in some instances, but it’s still a fun ride that expands on the series a little more.

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) are called upon by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) after successfully escaping with money and the ideas of a new start in Fast Five. Now, Hobbs needs them to track down and even more dangerous criminal, who just so happens to like fast cars just as much as them. This time Hobbs has a kicker for Dom and his crew. He’s located the thought-to-be-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

Dom and Brian call back the crew (Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Gal Gadot) to help take down the slimy mastermind known as Shaw (Luke Evans) and also make their family whole yet again.

The stakes are at an all-time high in this latest Fast & Furious entry, which features the returning cast of Fast Five, plus director Justin Lin.

I was never a huge fan of the Fast & Furious series. I always thought the first one sucked, with 2 Fast 2 Furious being a guilty pleasure of mine until recently. Tokyo Drift showed that the series has potential past the original story and cast and then Fast Five expanded on the genre of the franchise, which used to solely stick to being car-oriented. Now, the films take place more in the realm of being heist movies, with lots of fast cars and a little dash of funny thrown in for good measures.

The addition of Dwayne Johnson makes the action hit harder, while the ensemble cast ensures us that we don’t need to rely solely on Paul Walker or Vin Diesel to carry any particular film, which is always a good thing.

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Director Justin Lin somehow struck magic with Fast Five, delivering a film that both fans and non-fans enjoyed a lot. It was the series’ most successful film yet and clearly the best in terms of quality. I hold Fast Five up high as a near-perfect action film. It’s a film that knows its boundaries and often times tries to push them just a little further.

It’s funny, always moving at a fast pace and rarely carries an ounce of fat, which means I was approaching Fast & Furious 6 with hard-to-gauge expectations, because I know how difficult it is to make a worthy sequel, yet I was rooting for it because of the expanded scale and scope and the additions of Luke Evans and Gina Carano to the cast list.

Unfortunately, Fast & Furious 6 isn’t nearly as good as its predecessor. It has that fat hanging off of it that I was worried about and it tries a little too hard to make things work, whereas Fast Five made everything seem natural. One can argue that this series is nothing more than over-the-top car stunts and unbelievable action, but I still think Fast Five handles these things smartly enough to make it almost feel like it could happen.

Of course these films will always have a half-dozen moments where you’ll be laughing and simply nodding your head at the plausibility of it all, but Fast & Furious 6 takes it a little too far and throws in well over a dozen of these moments, with some of them being beyond laughable and simply stupid.

The opening isn’t nearly tight enough either. The first twenty five minutes almost act as a shot-for-shot remake, as Hobbs spits out his one-liners to a newly recruited Gina Carano. He then proceeds to lay out the entire plot on the table and then it’s not too long before he recruits Dom and his crew and things get rolling.

Once things get rolling the film gets much better. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker might get shit for their acting careers, but no one can play Dom and Brian like they do. The rest of the crew is essential too, because together they make for a well-rounded team that actually knows a thing or two about cars and pulling off insane heists.

Watching the group work together to figure out Shaw’s plans is both interesting and informative, because here Lin exposes their wealth of knowledge about vehicles, while also stopping to poke fun at Dwayne Johnson‘s massive body frame and Tyrese Gibson‘s rather large forehead.

It’s not too long before Lin kicks the film into high gear and focuses on the impressive action, which looks a lot more practical than CGI again, aside from the final act. The action leading to the final act is mostly traditional Fast & Furious stuff, with a giant tank escalating a highway chase scene up until it’s nearly ruined by one of those moments where the film turns into something much dumber than it should be.

The finale is more of a mixed bag. On paper it’s almost brilliant, because director Justin Lin balances about fifteen situations onto one very long runway, but the execution is fatally flawed. See, Lin manages to find something to do for every single character and he films it without much on-screen confusion as to where any given person is at a certain time, but for some reason he shoots the entire thing in the dark, with poor lighting.

I’m willing to bet that this was a budget thing, because covering stuff up with CGI is much easier to do at night than in the day. This hurts the film, because most of the car chase stuff is hard to render. This weighs down heavily on the film, because the final showdown is only visible for about 2/3rds of the time. Everything happening on the plane is fine and dandy, but the stuff going on outside is a pick-and-choose, with some of it coming across looking just fine, but most of it looking rather dark and unappealing to the action-lovers eye.

Still, Lin must be credited for pulling off such a massive finale, despite its lack of logic and general pushy over-the-top nature.

I liked Fast & Furious 6. I just didn’t love it. And that hurts, because Fast Five was such a near-perfect film. Clearly Lin knew what worked in Fast Five, but he just didn’t know how to balance that yet again, while also raising the stakes properly to make the sequel similar, but not exactly the same.

I have no doubt that fans of the series (or fans of Fast Five) will find this one to be enjoyable. My problems with the film are minor and even the ones that are a little worse still don’t manage to drag Fast & Furious 6 down past being unwatchable.

When someone asks me to explain my disappointment with Fast & Furious 6, I simply tell them that it’s like craving candy around Halloween time — Fast Five manages to fill you up with an even balance of action, comedy and cars, satisfying your action craving like a candy bar after a good meal, while Fast & Furious 6 is simply someone unloading an entire bucket of candy onto your lap, giving you that same action, comedy and cars, plus a lot more. The lack of timed restraint makes you almost sick of it all by the time it ends, exactly like the craving for a delicious sugary treat after Halloween.

See Fast & Furious 6. It ties in with the rest of the series’ timeline quite well and it will leave you anticipating Fast & Furious 7. Just don’t expect something as well-done as Fast Five.

Fast & Furious 6 – 7/10

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