On the heels of the universally successful Fifth Movie, the next chapter in the Fast and Furious Series comes in with the most positive fanfare the franchise has seen in a decade. Can Furious Six rise to the occasion, or will it fail to live up to higher expectations?
When Fast Five was released 2 years ago, the first reaction I could muster up was resigned apathy. At the time, the first movie was nearing its’ 10th Anniversary, and had been followed up by a sequel reviled for its’ quality, a decent but too over the top Third Movie, and a Fourth Movie while financially successful, ended up being a labored chore to watch. With 3 movies failing to recapture the magic that made the first one such a pop-culture sensation, it’s no wonder why the fifth movie was met with such lack of enthusiasm on my part and others. In hindsight, it was a very smart idea to hype up The Rock’s appearance and to put the release date the weekend before the official start of the Summer Movie Season. It was a combination of moves that would ultimately pay off that only the most optimistic of fans could’ve anticipated.
By the time Fast Five had fully ended its’ theatrical run, not only did it gross a record box office (more than $600 million worldwide) for the franchise, but it was also met with the best critical and fan reception the franchise had ever seen. From what seemed like inevitable defeat, the 5th movie would grasp the type of victory that breathed new life into the nearly dead setting. Being emboldened by a high level of new interest, Universal has decided to release Fast and Furious Six during what looks to be the most competitive Memorial Day Weekend in years. With both the benefits of positive momentum and the weight of heightened expectations, can the Sixth movie prove that its’ predecessor wasn’t a fluke? The answer is right below you.
When one talks about “The Fast and the Furious” series, the one aspect that cannot be ignored is the raising of stakes that happens with each successive story in the mythos with Tokyo Drift being the only exception. With “Fast and Furious 6”, Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson/The Rock) recruits Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in his quest to stop a former British Special Forces Soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his gang of highly trained super criminals in the hopes of thwarting their plans to create a weapon that could put thousands of lives at risk. If successful, Toretto and his gang would gain Full Pardons for their crimes, allowing them to return to the United States. Once all of that is established, the vehicular-warfare that the series is famous for begins in earnest.
Before we continue any further, let’s make ourselves aware that “The Fast and the Furious” series is nowhere near close to something that anyone should could consider high cinema, and to go along with that same notion, it also falls short of being an high-concept action movie. In fact, you wouldn’t be completely wrong if you labeled these movies as another Blockbuster Action Summer Franchise, where shutting off your brain is required to get any type of value out of it. However, I would also throw out the point that the 5th movie’s self-realization of this label allowed it to actually be an entertaining Summer Movie that you didn’t have to completely shut your brain off to enjoy, and thankfully this movie does that better than its’ predecessor.
As I was watching this movie, one of the things that I appreciated was the fact that it kept the plot-induced stupidity down to a minimum. Both the heroes and villains were portrayed as competent individuals, as victories and defeats are earned by the skill, preparation for the situation and plain old fashioned ingenuity that the characters are able to employ. It’s a small part of the movie that goes a long way to keeping you interested in what’s taking place, proving that low-concept movies don’t have to insult their audience.
Speaking of execution wins, screenplay writer Chris Morgan turns in what could be his best work with Furious Six. Following in the footsteps of Fast Five, the movie uses a strong screenplay to make the story and narrative better than it has any right to be. With this being the 3rd movie in the trilogy that Fast and the Furious started, Fast Six uses the storylines that were established in the previous movies to help the narrative gain more teeth, and to pay off the fans who sat through the other 2 movies, effectively helping the audience to get more emotionally invested in the proceedings. As for how the screenplay helped the acting, the creative heads realized the strengths of the actors and actresses and played up to them extremely well. Diesel and Johnson still continue to have electric chemistry, Paul Walker actually makes his character (Brian O’Conner) feel engaging, Michelle Rodriguez reestablishes herself as a Top-Tier action actress, Gal Gadot and Sung Kang are the emotional glue that makes you care. However, they are all eclipsed by but they are all eclipsed by Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who have the type of comedic timing that could rival the all-time greats should it be nourished and refined. If I’m a Hollywood executive, I would build a buddy action comedy just around those two. If there is any one negative that sticks out, it would have to be the lack of charisma that stops Luke Evan’s Owen Shaw from being a truly memorable villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still does a great job with the role, but I couldn’t help but feel he was missing that one little spark that could’ve taken him over the top. Still, if that’s the worst thing I could say about a performance in this movie, I’d consider it a giant win.
Now that we’ve gotten everything else out of the way, it’s time to talk about the one aspect that will make or break this movie for most people, and I’m happy to inform you that the action delivers in spades. Once we get through the entertaining character introductions and plot setup, we’re immediately dropped into the action, where its’ established that our villains are as good of drivers as our good guys. From there, the tension of each action sequence builds on the one the preceded it, making sure that you are never sitting in your seat bored. The absolute combined craziness that makes up the final 2 action sequences needs to be seen to be believed, and will stay with you long after you leave the theater. Justin Lin has come of age as an action director through these movies, and if we see multiple future works in the genre with his influence, then we’ll all be richer for it.
The Bottom Line:
As I sit here and gather my finishing thoughts, I can’t help but compare “The Fast and The Furious” series to the “Step Up” series. Despite being about different subject material, both were born from “counter culture” movements becoming all the rage and having enough mainstream penetration to become profitable cinema ventures. Despite the first movies winning big at the Box, the fact that part of their existence was to cash in on a niche ended up defining them as niche movies. Despite, this franchises 4th movie being considered one of the worst movies in the series, it helped clear the way for the series to shed its’ previous reputation, and become one of the most recognizable names In the current action movie scene, accomplishing what “Step Up” may not be able to.
When all is said and done, “Fast and Furious 6” is definitely worthy of the name blockbuster. With a combination of lucid action sequences and a surprisingly engaging story, this movie definitely proves that “Fast Five” was not a one-time fluke. This movie will grip you from the beginning and never let go, and will most likely end up proving to be one of the best theater-going experiences you’ll have this summer. If you’re a fan of action movies, insane car stunts that give the laws of Physics 2 middle fingers and a roundabout underdog story, this is definitely the movie you want to see.
(Most Images are from http://collider.com/fast-furious-6-images/)