In the wake of their Rio de Janeiro heist, Dominic Torreto (Vin Deisel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) have become very rich men. They have adjusted their lifestyles accordingly, and are now resigned to civilian life. Meanwhile, the members of their extended family have been enjoying the spoils of war. Everything is as it should be when DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) wanders into their relative utopia with a proposition. He’s been doggedly chasing Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a world class thief with limitless resources. The brazen outlaw has remained one step ahead of his pursuers at every turn. Now desperate, Hobbs asks Dominic for help. In exchange for that assistance, the lawman offers the one thing that his former adversary couldn’t possibly refuse. This time, it’s all about family.
Fast & Furious 6 is Justin Lin’s fourth go around with the fuel-injected action franchise. It will also be his last, as Universal Pictures wants to get a 7th entry out post haste. Quality is of little concern in such cases. Taking that into account, Lin has attempted to make his swan song one for the ages. No expense has been spared, and the pedal as been put to the proverbial medal. However, speed alone doesn’t guarantee the gold. Does Fast 6 have the moves to leave it’s predecessors in the dust?
The appeal of the Fast & Furious films is relatively universal. The formula is simple: exotic cars, beautiful women, and relentless action are optimally filmed, while everything else can be an afterthought. Justin Lin and his director of photography, Stephen F. Windon, have refined their visual presentation to a science. They’ve also learned how vary the application of that science. Fast 5 was a daylight robbery, the perpetrators of which hid in plain sight. Fast 6 is more covert, remaining among the shadows like a clan of Ninja.
Fast 6 regards the concept of escalation as a most hallowed virtue. Justin Lin stages his set pieces with such audacity, one can only applaud his sense of showmanship. Unfortunately, he splits the difference between traditional and modern sensibilities. Quick cuts and medium shots are used, though not to fault. However, that sense of restraint fails the film at its most crucial moment. The bravura finale takes place in the darkest of night. That darkness, coupled with the aforementioned cuts and shots, cripples any sense of clarity.
The true failing of the film is its utter self-seriousness. The Fast & Furious series has always avoided pretense like the plague. Justin Lin has been slowly steering it in a more solemn direction. Screenwriter Charles Morgan allows the reunion of Dominic and Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) to take center stage during the third act. Her reintroduction to the series comes by way of an amnesia subplot. Meanwhile, a much more interesting conflict is given the short shaft. Morgan draws some intriguing parallels between Dominic and Shaw. Action movie characterizations thrive on that kind of duality. However, the film languishes whenever it stresses the drama over the action,
Once again, Dwayne Johnson emerges as the true thoroughbred of the cast. He’s the perfect amalgam of gun-toting action hero and costumed superhero. Both his persona and physique would be right at home in either category. He’s also a surprisingly versatile actor who manages to deftly walk the line between action and comedy.
Ultimately, Fast & Furious 6 places a very close second to Fast 5. That is by no means a tragedy, as the latter remains the absolute high point of the series. Justin Lin has been competing with himself for the past seven years. That’s certainly admirable. That he’s choosing to step away from the series before the law of diminishing returns kicks in is refreshing. He has yet to craft a true masterpiece, but he’s left an indelible mark on a notable brand. If this was Michael Bay, that would be a decidedly mixed blessing (See his 3 Transformers films for proof of this). In the case of Justin Lin, it’s an asset.
3.5 Out of 5
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