By on June 11, 2013

Might as well jump. Picture courtesy Universal.

The fifth installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise was a nearly perfect wrap-up for the series; deeply satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable, visually stunning. Your humble author gave it the equivalent of two thumbs up and recommended it without reservation. Most importantly, I noted that the central themes — fatherhood, family, young men searching for role models — were enduring enough to carry all the twenty-ton-safe gingerbread. These themes, which have underpinned three of the five movies we’ve seen so far, differentiate the series from, say, Redline. They’re important.

There was no way Fast and Furious 6 was going to measure up to its predecessor. Not only would that violate the odd-numbered-movies-rock-even-numbered-movies-suck pattern established up to this point, the way Fast Five had ended didn’t leave much room in the plot for those enduring themes mentioned above. It’s a relief to see, therefore, that instead of trying to be a better movie, it settles for being different. And in the course of being different, the franchise sets a strong course for what it was always going to become, if it could stay alive long enough: fantasy.

Spoilers, both contextual and carbon fiber, ahead.

In retrospect, it’s rather amazing to see the escalation in stakes from the very first movie to this one. Twelve years ago, the problem faced by undercover cop Brian O’Conner was the possibility that somebody might get shot by a truck driver. The death of Han in “Tokyo Drift” marked a new level of seriousness in the films, after which the bodies were permitted to hit the floor without reservation. (Or did you think all those “corrupt” cops in Five lived through their accidents?)

Now, however, we’ve progressed all the way up to nuclear weapons. That’s right, the bad guy in this one (played with a complete lack of energy or interest by Luke Evans) is trying to build an EMP bomb that could “cripple an entire country”. To defeat him, The Rock, er, Hobbs, has to reassemble Dominic Toretto’s “team” and face him on the streets of various European countries.

If “Fast Five” was a sort of “Ocean’s Eleven” ripoff, this is a James Bond film in all but name. The villain has the same omnipotence as Javier Bardem’s character in “Skyfall”, orchestrating horribly complex events for the sole purpose of double-and-triple-crossing our heroes. Some of the scenes are outright nods of the head to previous Bond films, including the final action sequence which owes everything, including an impossibly long runway, to the second-to-last scene of “The Living Daylights”. Hell, there’s even a Polish version of Richard Kiel’s “Jaws”, just to make sure that Hobbs has the chance to play the underdog in a physical confrontation.

The resulting plot is so frothily inconsequential it never even tries to distract us from the real story, which is the romance between Toretto and a conveniently amnesia-stricken Letty. If I have any genuine problem with this movie, it’s with the decision to drain the tension out of it by making Letty unable to remember her past. A plot where Letty knowingly abandons Dom to participate in a crime syndicate would have had real teeth. Instead, we have a setup for a reconciliation between the two that is both overly facile and completely ridiculous. Why would Toretto give up the (it must be said, considerably better-looking) Brazilian ex-cop who loves him to pursue someone who doesn’t even know his name? The brilliance of the first and (particularly) third movies was due in large part to their refusal to paper over issues like that. When Letty and Toretto have their big meeting, it’s spoiled by a “matching scars” speech that, again, is far too easy to be real.

The rest of the movie unfolds as you’d expect. There are fast cars, impossible stunts, feats of physical strength by Toretto and Hobbs. Brian O’Conner proves, as always, to be the best fighter of the group, winning a confrontation in prison with four buffed-out thugs and reliably knocking out various paramilitary types. The good guys win, with one casualty to make sure that the events of “Tokyo Nights” will happen after all. Finally, there’s a post-credits sequence to warp the time and event sequence of that aforementioned third film even further and introduce the next bad guy.

Every single plot point in the movie is suspect and the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the action sequences verges on Baja-truck strength but it’s not really important because the series now explicitly exists in the fantasy universe. The protagonists exhibit superhuman strength, endurance, and perception. The bad guys are too powerful to be real. Road & Track’s Alex Nunez compared the series in a comment to “the Marvel Universe” and that’s spot on. This is a place where runways are twenty-eight miles long and people repeatedly fall thirty feel on concrete or metal without a scratch. Driving maneuvers of impossible precision are commonplace. Every victim of the mayhem is guilty or complicit in some way. There is no city in the globe that does not play host to a nightly street-racing festival chock-full of gorgeous women and gleaming tuner cars. Guns, computer systems, and complicated Rube Goldberg hydraulic mechanisms are available at a moment’s notice. Nobody is ever seen working out, performing any automotive maintenance beyond tightening a bolt, or reading an instruction manual. It’s comic-book fantasy, plain and simple, right down to the expected fanservice we get from every female character.

As fantasy, “Six” succeeds beyond question. It’s worth watching and it’s even a kind of a date movie if your date is at all inclined towards action films. The hope now is that the seventh movie in the series will be a little grittier, a little more real. We’ve now caught up to the present day, which means that Anyone Can Die, but if you want that sort of thing, I’d recommend you watch “Game Of Thrones”. The F&F series is now about fantasy. Luckily, it continues to be fantastic.

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24 Comments on “TTAC At The Movies: “Fast And Furious 6”...”

  • avatar

    I though F&F #5 was great, and I plan on seeing this one as soon as I can get a break from work.

  • avatar

    I really need to get around to watching these films…I’ve dug myself quite a hole…and I DO like Final Fantasy. This sounds like that, only with more car stunts!

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    Jack, thanks to your pithy, witty and worthwhile prose I always imagined you the type to sit and expound on Sub Pop bands or Joseph Heller. Cinematically I imagined you screening Le Mans or Tucker and making references to Louis Malle.
    I’m going to pretend this gushing over another bloated Hollywood explosion-fest never happened.

  • avatar

    “In retrospect, it’s rather amazing to see the escalation in stakes from the very first movie to this one. Twelve years ago, the problem faced by undercover cop Brian O’Conner was the possibility that somebody might get shot by a truck driver. The death of Han in “Tokyo Drift” marked a new level of seriousness in the films, after which the bodies were permitted to hit the floor without reservation. (Or did you think all those “corrupt” cops in Five lived through their accidents?)”

    Actually, Jesse was murdered by Johnny Tran in 1 :(

    I loved Fast 6, my favorite so far. Tyrese was hilarious, and Johnson was just a beast. You are spot on with it being like a Bond film just as 5 was like Oceans 11. I hope 7 pares down the ensemble cast and focuses mostly on Dom’s inner psyche, as he plays a cat-and-mouse game with you-know-who.


    My only gripe is how Gisele was treated. The first half of the story is about saving Dom’s woman, and the second half is about saving Brian’s woman, but Han’s woman is expendable?! WTF?

    • 0 avatar

      We were not happy about Gisele either, but she had to die to tie into Tokyo Drift. Han’s loss of the love of his life is what drives him to a life of semi-crime in Japan.

      My bigger gripe was that even after the bad guy openly threatens Dom’s family, no one thought to provide protection to Mia??

  • avatar

    Agreed on all counts. FF1 and FF5 were the great ones, FF4 was needed to get back on track after FF2 and FF3, and FF6 was fun to watch and I like how they tied into the other films just for continuity and to set up FF7+. True, the continuity is forced a bit (OK, a lot) but back when they made Tokyo Drift the series was all but dead so no one knew they would need to clean up the story.

    I love that my wife actually dragged me to this one as our date movie too. Win win as they say.

  • avatar

    The beginning sequence where the Challenger could be equal in driving tight, twisty mountainous mountainous roads – let me know this was supposed to be fantasy.

  • avatar

    I loved the movie. The ending of the tank chase scene was jaw dropping for me.

    One of my relatives saw it with me and stated that it seemed unrealistic.

    I told him that if he wants realism, he can follow me around for a day as I wake up, drive in traffic, sit at my cube, drive in traffic again, watch some TV and then go to bed. That doesn’t sound very entertaining now does it?

  • avatar

    I saw the first one in high school. A lot of hype back then about it; we walked about out of the movie like “Honda Civics? WTF?”. Then lived with that god awful trend through the rest of high school.

    Never saw the 2nd. Rented the 3rd. Not impressed. Saw one more after that, rented again, I remember them being chased through a desert, a cave. Not very memorable.

    This one might get rented from the Red Box. Can’t go to wrong for a $1, but no way would I pay to see anymore of these movies in a theater. But then again, I only go movies about once every other year.

  • avatar

    i liked it, honestly i like all of them. you can’t approach them as a serious movie, otherwise you’ll be disappointed. just appreciate the cars and the action, and take the dialog and plot as a sort of ironic comedy.

  • avatar

    Always saw these things as more or less car-guy/guilty pleasure type movies. Trying to make any sense out of them just seems like a complete waste of time/effort. Shut off your brain and pass the popcorn. Enjoy.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s nostalgia, but for me there is FF1 and then all the sequels. What made FF1 special was the chemistry between the cast and the whole concept of cool makeshift family who lived and breathed fast cars. I dare to say that the cast had a lot stronger vibe between them than even Oceans 11 cast. I belive car guys all over the world dreamed to be part of Dom’s FF1 family. Some of the sequels have tried to recreate that, but not very successfully. Not many “blockbuster type” movies deal with such issues – family, true friendship, loyalty – and deal in a sincere and touching way like FF1 managed. FF1 just makes me feel very good watching it, even after 12 years.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen the first two FF films and I don’t recall any themes of fatherhood nor anything else.

    But you don’t go to a film like this for anything above action, at least I didn’t, yet I was still bored after both of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Admittedly, the second movie didn’t really have much to do with that theme, except for the background story to the relationship between Brian and Roman. But the first movie discussed a lot of Dom’s father and his effect on him, as well as Brian’s lack o a father and that converse effect. Part of the irony is how Dom had a supposedly great father and he turned to a life of crime, where Brian went the opposite direction, at least at first.

  • avatar

    The first one was and will always be the best, even though it’s essentially “Point Break” in a garage instead of on a beach. The second one wasn’t as bad as everyone says it is, and the third one is genuinely underrated. But the thing those three all had in common (other than the fact that they are their own entities, they go in their own direction and they are not the same movie remade each time no matter how much the pop culture gurus at suggest that they are), is that the cars were equal as co-stars -even if most of them from the second movie were recycled from the first- in their own right and not just “means to an end” tools as they became once Justin Lin refocused on “the original crew” as the storyline reverted to formulaic action in movies 4-6. And they were accessible; any fool could tart up a late-’90’s Civic or Eclipse…the equivalent of “exotic” in the first two movies was the Skyline R34 or Evo in “2Fast” that wasn’t sold in the US at the time. Or the Silvias and the other JDM stuff from “Tokyo Drift” that we NEVER got in the States.

    The series hasn’t been the same for me since it morphed into big budget/special effects action territory…it used to be a cool group of movies about cars and the propel who drove them. Now it’s a giant robot away from being a Michael Bay franchise.

    • 0 avatar

      I liked Point Break a lot too, and it was more or a realistic movie. And I agree, the 3rd movie is underrated because of the hate for drifting, but the storyline was good. Great opening race scene too.

      • 0 avatar

        “Wow. You can read the brochure.”

        Classic…irony is Zachary Bryan playing the son of a hot-rodding enthusiast in a TV show (“Home Improvement”) as a kid and then playing another character in a movie that gets embarrassed by a hot-rodding enthusiast when he’s a young adult.

  • avatar

    I just can’t watch these movies. Does anyone else get a little sick to the stomach when these old, classic cars are destroyed for a movie?

    • 0 avatar

      At one point, yes, I was. Then I saw a piece on the cars they use and its basically as follows:

      They do not use good examples of the cars, save for 1 to use in any showcase shots.

      The ones that are used in stunts are beat-on non-running examples that get sent through a body shop to look good enough and then have a a crate setup (LS3, 6-speed) dropped in.

      So basically no good cars actually get destroyed in the making of the movie.

      They did actually build a functional RB26 powered classic mustang for Tokyo Drift, though it wasn’t used in any of the action scenes. Those used a few shitty condition ones with crate 351s.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t take the movie too seriously. The cool looking ramp car was clearly powered by a chevy LS motor, sounded like an F1 car at 18,000 RPM and then Paul Walker said “sounded like a turbo diesel”. And then the rock mentioned that the E60 M5s had twin turbo V8s. That being said I still enjoyed the movie.

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