May 25, 2013



It’s almost unheard-of for a franchise to need 5 installments to hit its stride, but that was the case with 2011’s Fast Five.  After kicking around with its first, moderately successful quartet in various locations and featuring shifting combinations of characters (aside from a seconds-long cameo, neither Vin Diesel nor Paul Walker even appeared in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), Fast Five re-imagined the series as an epic, multinational saga teeming with cast members and barely-human scaled stunts, and it was both an entertainment and boxoffice powerhouse.

FAST & FURIOUS 6 is more of the same, although it’s not quite as much fun as Fast Five, which had the ebullience of its caper movie genre.  Five ended with the reveal that Letty (Michele Rodriguez), onetime love of Dom Toretto (Diesel), wasn’t blown up after all in chapter 4 (Fast & Furious, in the series’s somewhat confusing nomenclature), but was in fact alive, and FF6 has to spend a lot of narrative shoe leather dealing with how that came to be and Letty’s resulting amnesia.  Also, while a fortune was clearly spent on FF6‘s giant airport runway finale and its cars-vs.-plane showdown, it’s just not as wildly enjoyable as Five‘s hairpin car-chase-with-bank-vault through the streets of Brazil.

Nevertheless, FF6 has its new formula firmly set, and the movie provides plenty of mindless pleasure.  The genre this time is an Expendables-type battle thriller.  The villain du jour is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who has the snide British accent that marks baddies in so many Hollywood action movies, and the MacGuffin he’s after is some kind of computer chip that blacks out entire nations and can cause World War III.  Naturally, Shaw employs a crew of daredevil drivers to do his dirty work, and naturally, this dilemna forces DEA agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to overcome his objections and seek out the only other crew of drivers in the world who can defeat Shaw and his nefarious forces:  Dom, Brian O’Connor (Walker)–who once upon a time was an FBI agent after Dom, and is now his brother-in-law, married to Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster)–funnymen Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), and Gisele (Gal Gadot), who was once Dom’s girlfriend and is now Han’s.   Tego (Tego Calderon) and Rico (Don Omar) sit out this installment, while Brewster and Elsa Pataky’s Elena have much smaller roles, Brewster because Mia is a new mother, and Pataky because the Letty storyline makes Elena, recently Dom’s girl, an inconvenience.  Since Elena had once been Hobbs’s sidekick, he’s now acquired Riley (Gina Carano, from Haywire) as his new number 2.  Will the gang, all multimillionaires after Fast Five‘s heist, get back together to save the world and receive amnesty for all their past crimes?  Why, of course they will, especially once they find out that Letty is now working for Shaw.

A multitude of screeching tires, gunshots, very large explosions and outbreaks of sheer testosterone (from both male and female badasses) follow.  It’s too bad that Chris Morgan’s script wasn’t able to do more with the initially amusing idea that everyone in Dom’s group has an evil twin on Shaw’s, but the notion just sort of lies there; Shaw, too, is no more than a cliche villain.  Morgan has the tone right, though–a mix of self-satire and serious moodiness (if you don’t know already that Dom’s crew is a “family,” the movie will repeat it for you countless times before the end credits) that allows the series to claim emotional weight even while it’s merrily blowing up every vehicle in sight.  Justin Lin, on his 4th turn in the director’s chair, orchestrates it all beautifully, especially a freeway chase involving a tank that puts the similar sequence in A Good Day To Die Hard to shame.  The actors are expert in their various turns by now, and it’s all held together by Diesel, who combines philosophical aphorisms with his bullet head and massive biceps.  (No Diesel/Rock fight this time around–Johnson’s role is more in the background in FF6, and both men are on the same side.)  Evans can’t do much with Shaw, but Carano made a canny choice for a second role to follow Haywire, and her hand-to-hand London tube station fight with Rodriguez is a doozy.

The Fast & Furious franchise has a knack (even superior to Marvel’s) for setting up its next chapter with a mid-credits tag, and movie 7 is almost guaranteed to be as big if not bigger (especially internationally) than FF6, with a development that not only brings the series up to date, but introduces someone new who brought screams of pleasure from the audience.  Without any presold comic book or other source material, and despite its various stumbles along the way, Fast & Furious has become as thriving a franchise as any today.  Now that it’s incorporated tanks and airplanes, let’s hope no one tries to send it into outer space.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."