The Wheels Keep Spinning

Review of “Fast and Furious”

By Vincent Abbatecola

Generally, most of the franchises that get sequels are either superhero adventures or the latest horror story that receives a new installment every Halloween. When director Rob Cohen’s “The Fast and the Furious” was released in June 2001, it was hard to believe that a movie about street racing would spawn five sequels. Now, in a series that is still growing after starting its ignition 12 years ago, the tricked-out cars are still speeding, flipping and gliding their way across the world.

The franchise has since reached its sixth entry with Justin Lin’s “Fast and Furious 6.” The auto world’s equivalent of the Avengers assembles once again in what is probably the most unapologetically over-the-top installment to date and requires some of the strongest suspension of disbelief you’ll need for any film this year.

Following the events of “Fast Five,” the whole road crew has scattered around the globe: Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) are new parents; Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) lives with his new girlfriend, Elena (Elsa Pataky); Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) reside in Hong Kong; and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Bridges) live wealthy lives of their own. Soon, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) finds Dom and reveals that the latter’s past love, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who is suffering from amnesia, is actually still alive and working for a gang leader named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs requests that Dom gets his team back together to stop Shaw’s heist gang from creating a terrorist device. In return, Dom and his friends will be granted pardons for their past crimes and will be allowed to return home to the United States.

The acting doesn’t stretch beyond the requirements for a typical action film, which is fine because the whole gang looks like it’s having fun just being together again. Diesel has his usual and satisfying tough-guy growl, and Gibson and Bridges, while not the best actors, provide the occasion comic jabs. There are a couple of standouts, including Rodriguez and Evans. Rodriguez, with her don’t-mess-with-me scowls, retains her tomboy persona and is as good at it as ever, always ready to let her hair down and throw some punches. With Evans, although his character can come off as a clichéd foreign antagonist, he still manages to come off as threatening when trying to exploit Letty’s amnesia and intimidate Dom’s group.

With each new film, the super-charged action scenes attempt to eclipse those of the previous chapter, and “Fast and Furious 6” certainly accomplishes that. In fact, the film practically has two climactic chases back to back that revel in their absurdity, but it’s all in the fun of the franchise. The first occurs on a highway in Spain that involves a fast-moving tank that demolishes its way to the crew, as well as ludicrously amusing stunts and Dom coming to Letty’s rescue in the most ridiculous way possible. The second involves the crew chasing down Shaw’s plane on what is apparently the longest runway ever, a sequence in which anything insanely impossible can happen.

Besides the large-scale chases, the film also takes its action to hand-to-hand combat, seeing as the newer installments have now become more like action movies than street-racing movies. A fight between Letty and DSS agent Riley (Gina Carano), with its shaky camera, quick editing and involvement of an amnesia victim, recalls the fights of the “Bourne” film series, although the latter simmer with more intensity.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who wrote the previous three “Fast and Furious” movies, realizes that a big story isn’t entirely necessary for these movies because the points of attraction are the stunts and fast cars, so he just builds in a plain action-movie terrorist plot to give the characters and road-tearing sequences something to be involved in. Having worked on the prior three films as director, Justin Lin takes each of Morgan’s screenplays and grows with each film as he displays his capability to thrillingly shoot each action scene as they become bigger with each film.

One of the story’s weak spots is a last-minute plot twist revolving around one character, a surprise that doesn’t serve a purpose. There is, however, a scene during the credits that gets the viewer revved up as it reveals the villain for the seventh installment, which will be out next July. It also appears that the franchise’s next events will move forward from the third film, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the story of which happens last when the timeline of the series is taken into consideration. This tantalizing tease is enough to hold the audience over until the cars are ready to emerge from the garage once again.

Final grade: B