[9 December 2013]
R.I.P., Paul Walker
Before even clicking on the link to this review, you likely already made up your mind about Fast and Furious 6. Six films in, the franchise has it’s fans and detractors, and this edition isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind. It has everything you love and hate about popcorn movies marketed for teen boys. For better or worse, Fast and Furious 6 preaches to the pulpit of fast cars, hot action and the thin line between good and evil.
Anyone picking up this film as their first venture into the series is likely to be a little lost. That said, if you’re watching a film where the cars hold equal billing with the actors, you probably don’t need much story to get your money’s worth. Fast and Furious 6 features a nice opening credits montage that provides a visual summary, but little more than lip service is done to explain who the supporting cast are and how they fit in with the series. Key plot points get their own flashbacks to bring viewers back up to speed, but with ten hours of backstory there’s a lot of catch up.
The cast of the series has grown so large that it rivals some television shows in breadth (if not depth). For the most part, these characters seem to fill out the affirmative action list of race car drivers. These multi-ethnic drivers are so good that The Rock himself needs their help to stop a similarly skilled group of terrorists.
That’s the basics of the plot, which merely serves as a reason for the characters to interact before battling each other in “adrenaline-fueled” vehicular based set pieces. Vin Diesel’s Dom gets a little more character development in his relationship with Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty, but the late Paul Walker’s Brian merely gets the plot point of “fatherhood” to register home the insinuation that maybe, after ten years and six films, it’s time to settle down. Each character serves his or her function well (which again, mainly consists of driving cars and dodging bullets), and only Roman, the Tyrese Gibson character, ever really wears out his welcome.
The theme here seems to be family and togetherness. On the run after the events in Fast and Furious 5, Dom, Brian and the gang are international criminals on the run. After their last heist, they have millions of dollars but live in fear of being extradited and put on trial back in the US. Like Dorothy, they thought they wanted to be jetsetters, but old age and steady relationships make them realize that there is no place like home.
Over the course of the series, Dom’s crew has become something of a surrogate family for one another; a band of misfits with a need for speed. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about how this franchise would have played out on the small screen, where the characters could get more development that would help justify their actions more than any cheesy movie dialogue ever could.
As it is, the theme and subsequent terrorist plot have little crossover and only serve as stopgaps between several vehicle-based action scenes. Each driver has a vehicle, generally reflecting his or her personality. Dom has a Dodge Daytona, a classic-looking ride to match his muscle-car demeanor; Brian drives a tricked-out BMW because, despite fatherhood, he’s still a bit of loose cannon. The Rock’s Hobbs drives perhaps the fastest army truck ever conceived, which somehow manages to keeps with a series of modified-nitro-infused street racers. (Probably because the Rock is driving it. He does get third billing, after all).
All the brouhaha of action and modicum of plot is managed stylishly by director Justin Lin. Lin (who also directed the previous two installments), keeps focus on the action, never letting things drift out of control to the point that audience is lost in chaos. Lin uses a nice mesh of styles, somewhere between classic car films like Bullit and the modern frenetic world of Michael Bay. It fits nicely with the dichotomy between Dom and Brian, classic and contemporary, that has become the cornerstone of their relationship.
Extras include several features on the cast, entitled “Gearhead’s Delight”, “The Flip Car”, “Take Control” and “Planes, Tanks and Automobiles”. Each extra details the various vehicles and vehicular stunts pulled off in the movie.
There’s even a couple of features on the human cast, as well. Most of it is of the standard back-slapping, “I love this guy” variety, but it does seem like they generally had a good time. And who wouldn’t have a good time driving $100,000 cars and playing cops and robbers? Sign me up!
The extended edition of the film contains some alternate shots that show slightly more violence or PG13 nudity. A round of deleted scenes rounds out the extras. Video is clear, the audio thumps and thwacks when needed, and you get the non-standard bonus of Blu-Ray, DVD and a digital download.
What’s missing here is a retrospective on the series. The “Making of…” and a couple of other features briefly touch upon the series humbler beginnings, but given that this is the 6th movie in the series, it would be nice to have at least a brief reflection by the cast and filmmakers on the journey so far. Fans may have to wait until the planned ninth film comes out before they get an all encapsulating retrospective.
Fast and Furious 6 is a movie about cars, muscleheads and an international terrorist plot that can only be saved by muscleheads with cars. If you’d like to engage with your inner 15-year-old, you could do much worse. Besides, everyone needs a little reckless endangerment in their lives, now and then.