Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Joe Taslim

Twelve years ago, walking out of the theater after seeing The Fast and the Furious, if someone had told me that the film would spawn one of Universal’s biggest franchises EVER, with five sequels under its belt, and number seven already set to go into production, I’d have laughed in their face and backhanded the crap out of them! But here we are, with Fast and Furious 6 now in theaters, and maybe I’m the one who deserves to get slapped!

FAST-AND-FURIOUS-6Picking up where Fast Five left off, Fast and Furious 6 finds Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, and Brian O’Connor, played by Paul Walker, with seemingly everything they could ever want. They’ve made comfortable lives for themselves in a non-extradition country, Dom has found love, and Brian is about to become a father. But a visit from Agent Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, will force Dom and Brian to reform their team from Rio to track down international criminal, Owen Shaw, played by Luke Evans. Shaw has been pulling several heists throughout Europe, and one member of his crew just happens to be Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who had supposedly been killed.

If Fast Five was the Ocean’s 11 of the franchise, Fast and Furious 6 is The Avengers! There’s even an in-joke regarding Hobbs being referred to as “Samoan Thor”, which only helps to perpetuate that idea. When the threat of Owen Shaw proves too great for the regular authorities, it does seem to make sense in the context of the Fast and Furious universe that Hobbs would look to Dom, Brian, and the rest of their crew for help. It’s a simple “it takes a thief” setup that puts everything in motion, and it’s amazing how natural it feels. Make no mistake, Fast and Furious 6 has no interest in logic or realism, nor should it. Do they explain how Hobbs found Dom? Nope! Is there an explanation for why the dude who claimed to kill Letty in the fourth film didn’t make sure she was dead? Of course not! Even the explanation for why she’s running with Shaw and his crew just screams “plot device”!

fast furious 6 sliderStill, the real stars of this franchise have always been the cars, and for what it’s worth, Fast and Furious 6 pulls out all the stops for some great action sequences. The first big car chase with the team going after Shaw in his modified “ramp car” through the streets of London is a beautifully staged ballet of speed, mayhem, and carnage. You wonder how they’ll top it. . . and then they do! As the film eventually takes the action to Spain, Dom and the gang ultimately have to go up against Shaw in a tank! There’s some great stunt driving on display in this scene, and the danger certain characters find themselves in definitely feels real, even if it’s capped off with a moment that might as well be saying, “F*** YOU, PHYSICS!!!”. We also get a nice scene of Dom challenging Letty to a race in an effort to get through to her, as she’s suffering from amnesia. It’s a genuinely strong character-building moment in the film and definitely calls back to the first Fast and Furious in terms of reestablishing their relationship.

However, we do get more than a few hand-to-hand fights courtesy of former woman’s MMA champ, Gina Carano, and Joe Taslim. The latter, some will recognize from his role in the Indonesian action film, The Raid, and he has a great fight scene with Tyrese and Sung Kang’s characters, Roman and Han. But it’s Carano who truly gets to shine as Hobb’s new partner, Riley. She goes toe-to-toe with Michelle Rodriguez in not one, but TWO knockdown, drag-out brawls over the course of the film. And while they fought each other in Fast Five, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel make great tag team partners in this film’s finale.

fast-and-furious-6-04With so many new characters, in addition to the returning cast, some characters do end up getting short-changed. Jordana Brewster as Mia seems a little too calm in regards to the revelation that Letty is still alive, and has no real reservations about both of the men in her life, one of whom being the father of her newborn child, going after the highly-trained Owen Shaw and his team, to get her back. Elena, played by Elsa Pataky, also seems totally cool with Dom going after his old girlfriend, despite their new found relationship. Both of them are absent for most of the action. Luke Evans isn’t given that much to work with, but he knows how to sell Shaw as an uncaring bastard and manages to give him a certain degree of intensity. He’s the flip-side to Dominic, who has always been about family and loyalty. We do, however, get some nice moments between Han and Gisele, played by Gal Gadot. The two have been walking a fine line when it comes to defining their relationship, and it’s satisfying to see their flirtation from the previous film evolve into something more substantial. There’s also a hilarious scene involving Hobbs and Tej, played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, visiting a high-end car auction to procure new vehicles to go after Shaw.

So much credit is due to director Justin Lin, who has decided not to come back to direct Fast 7. He’s made sure to go out with a bang with one of the best entries in the series. Fast and Furious 6 is insanely enjoyable, benefiting from a solid cast, a few good bits of humor, and more than enough action, whether it be the thrilling car chases, or the brutal fist fights. Vin Diesel and Co. have raised the bar pretty high for the next film, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do next.