I haven't seen all the films in this franchise, but it seems as if the
series has moved to being almost pure action. Of course, it can't be
pure, pure action. The car chase and fisticuffs have to be broken up
with some kind of exposition or some kind of narrative. The first film
back in 2001 had probably the most narrative and most characterization,
which in many ways aped Point Break (1991). As the series has gone, the amount of narrative and characterization has diminished with Fast & Furious 6 or simply Furious 6 possessing the least and what little narrative it does have it stole from the previous incarnations.
The style and energy from Fast Five are carried over directly. Instead of being Ocean's Eleven (2001) alone, this movie is also akin to Mission: Impossible (1996). Swap Brad Pitt and George Clooney for Dwayne Johnson who plays Luke Hobbs, an agent for the State Department, and Vin Diesel who plays Dominic Toretto, a professional criminal. Swap Tom Cruise for Paul Walker who plays Brian O'Conner, a LAPD officer-turned-Toretto's right hand. Instead of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, this movie centers itself mostly in London, England, with a last act in Spain, although who knows if that last act was actually filmed there.
Aside from watching the massive muscles that is Dwayne Johnson, this film is a car enthusiast or auto mechanic's wet dream. Unlike Fast Five, this film does remind us of the original attraction to the franchise, which is street racing with pimped or tricked-out cars. The cinematography of which is no more spectacular though than that of a car commercial.
The acting is no more spectacular either. Dwayne Johnson exists to flex his pecs and bulging biceps. Vin Diesel exists to just stand around or sit in a driver's seat and look tough. Tyrese Gibson is the comic relief. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges plays the tech guy. Sung Kang and Gal Gadot play the couple that always is second fiddle in a scene with anybody else. Paul Walker looks pretty but he really has no point, signifying that there may have been too many moving parts and too many spinning wheels here.
The McGuffin is a computer chip called Nightshade. The bad guy is a Brit named Owen Shaw, played by Luke Evans who has the gravitas and presence to play the king of gods in not one but two movies: Clash of the Titans (2010) and Immortals (2011). Evans is in fact the best actor of the bunch. It might say something that the supporting cast outshines the leads. Brief roles by Jason Thorpe as a snobby car auctioneer who has a great Pretty Woman in the expensive store moment, Thure Lindhardt as Firuz, a low level thug to Shaw's organization, Kim Kold, the bodybuilder who gives Johnson a run for his money, and John Ortiz, as Braga, the Mexican drug dealer, are all way more memorable here.
The twist is that Michelle Rodriguez who plays Letty, Toretto's love interest who supposedly died in the 2009 film, was resurrected but with no memory. The other twist is that Letty is now the love interest of Shaw. Of course, this opens a lot of opportunities, but the filmmakers don't really use it. The twist is only used as an excuse to get the Fast Five cast into the plot of this movie.
The first major car chase feels like something out of The Dark Knight (2008). Later, Shaw pulls a move that is similar to a plot point in The Dark Knight as well as Skyfall (2012). The action scenes are entertaining enough, though the movie overall has a ridiculous sense of escalation. The ante has to be upped with every subsequent action sequence.
Going back to that first major car chase, the center piece is Shaw's car, which is a mix of a Formula One race car and the Tumbler from The Dark Knight. Every subsequent action sequence has Shaw in a vehicle that's significantly greater. Next his car is a military tank and eventually he ends up in a cargo plane that looks bigger than a C-5 Galaxy. The runway sequence for that plane goes on forever, and makes the whole movie that much more ridiculous, but, at this point in this movie series I guess we have to expect that, just as everything else is so expected here.
A lot in Furious 6 is so predictable. I saw so much of it coming from miles away. Writer Chris Morgan who wrote the last three films in this franchise could have taken turns that would have shaken things up. He could have called people's bluffs, as it were, but he didn't. For example, since he doesn't do much to establish the love story, if it can be called that, between Letty and Shaw, he could have had Shaw let go of Letty early when a clear opportunity is presented and undercut Toretto's motive, which would have forced things in a more compelling direction. Another character could have called Hobbs' bluff when Hobbs has a gun to his head, which would have created a greater sense of danger and stakes than the ones we get.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, mayhem throughout and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 mins.