Fast and Furious 6 is a loud, bombastic, full-throttled, high-octane thrill ride that’s faster and more furious than its predecessor.

By Luke Whitmire

Fast and Furious 6Who would have thought a franchise built ostensibly for robust tough guys, supercharged vehicles and beautiful women would be so intoxicating? This testosterone-fueled spectacle is unabashed, unencumbered entertainment, free of the overplotting and deep subtextual themes that are inherent in a lot of films these days. Nothing wrong with films calibrated to be thought-provoking, but it’s good to keep the action genre strong with the tropes and mechanisms that make it exciting, if orchestrated properly.

Writer/director/producer Justin Lin helms his fourth film in the franchise, and exquisitely assembles an exponent of escapism with vehicular warfare, high-speed chases, cat-and-mouse interplay, audacious set-pieces and muscle-bound heroes in a realm full of James Bond trappings. Lin learned from the mawkish third and fourth entries and retooled Fast Five into a film conducive to enormous box office success. He modified it as a compelling heist thriller, complete with clever quips, ferocious action and an all-star cast. Furious 6 (as it’s called in the opening title card) picks up exactly where Fast Five left off, Lin constructs a story with all the original parts, but modifies the model just a bit.

Dom, the patriarch of the Fast gang (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), and the rest of the crew have great wealth, although they cannot return to the U.S. because of their criminal records. However, DSS Agent Luke Hobbs ( Dwayne Johnson) knows that Dom’s old girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive (revealed in Fast Five), so he hunts them down and offers Dom and his crew full pardons if they help him find Letty and her criminal boss, a former British special forces officer named Owen Shaw (Luke Evens). This guy is an excellent antagonist.

Lin does a superb job shifting gears by letting us see what Owen can do when he first encounters Dom and his motley crew. Owen’s skill-set embraces hi-tech weaponry, martial arts and the ability to drive fast cars. He drives a military-style Formula 1 car through London streets that is specially configured to flip other vehicles up in the air. Also, he is a very intelligent villain who always stays one step ahead of everyone else. His gang of mercenaries have been doing highly precise vehicular heists all over Europe, manufacturing a MacGuffin device that can shut down military operations. This really isn’t your formulaic bad guy who cackles incessantly, he is cool, calm and collected with elite super cars and firepower. Owen has the utmost respect for his mob of mercenaries and opponents.

Fast and Furious 6The film is not only fueled with  testosterone-induced male power, but injects a lot of supple girl power that’s as infectious as Diesel and Johnson muscling their way through the titanically truculent bad guys. It’s really the girls that pack the biggest punch this time around. Gina Carano (who plays Rily) is a real life kickboxing champion and she kicks, punches and pounds Letty back into reality. Gal Gadot (Gisele), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Elsa Pataky (Elena) and Clara Paget (Vegh) as the girl villain all have their moments to shine. Like Lin, writer Chris Morgan does his own tinkering under the hood and calibrates the women as puissant warriors that, at times, function better than their male counterparts.

The action sequences  progressively become grander in scale. Lin’s creative eye for executing and composing money shots like a supercharged tank bursting out from inside a large truck to a vehicular showdown with a Russian Plane are uniformly brilliant and immaculately choreographed. Even Lin’s editing is manufactured with hast and fury to amplify the glories of destruction and mayhem.

Unfortunately, there are some low points. Out of all the films in the franchise, this entry is the most outrageous and implausible, and the dialogue is definitely not aimed at profundity. There are several plot holes here and there, and the moments of comic relief fall flat. Also, the people of  Furious 6  have gone through a metamorphosis from being hard-boiled, fast driving wheelmen to indestructible superheroes. However, those low points do not overshadow the many strengths in the film. What makes this franchise really work are the strong characterizations and the dynamic concord between the main characters. Lin never ventures far away from the formula that made Fast Five a success: an overblown spectacle with a warm sense of teamwork, bonding and becoming family. The underlying theme of family and loyalty is stronger than ever. In a summer filled with spectacles that have been patented for mechanized violence and mindless fun, it’s good to see a delirious action spectacle with a meaningful creed.

And if you stay to watch the end credits, you’ll be treated to an extra scene that introduces a well-known action star who will be the villain in Fast 7, which hits theaters next July. Hurry up and bring us the next testosterone-fueled, nitrate-injected sequel!

Bottom line:
What started out as an illegal street racing spectacle has evolved into a continent-hopping, turbo-charged crime saga. Justin Lin once again builds on the characterizations, especially the macho swagger between Diesel and Johnson, and ramps up the over-the-top action, to keep this franchise moving faster and more furiously. This is terrific popcorn entertainment with a message about abandonment, loyalty, chivalry, and how family is more important than treasures.

* * * 1/2 out of 5 stars