This is other side of the looking glass. The Fast and the Furious franchise has not only become one of the most robust and reliable franchises but also the one that seems to be building momentum six films into its life. That’s a precedent. Under Justin Lin’s direction a franchise built on a most hollow “Point Break with Cars” premise is delivering big thrills and big moments far and beyond it had any right delivering. Part of that success is the growing focus on really huge stunts and larger than life action moments and the rest is due to a diverse and well-tuned cast that does a good job of keeping any one person from carrying the bulk of the dramatic load. More than any other major franchise its concerns seem to be centered wholly on giving their audience what they want. There’s no ego, just a little swagger. It’s well earned.
The latest film arrives on the heels of Fast Five‘s reveal that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, looking terrific) didn’t die in Fast and Furious. Worse yet she’s lost her memory from her near death experience and has hooked up with a criminal who uses vehicles to even more nefarious purposes than her old crew. Yep, there’s a whole new level of vehicular ruffian on the prowl and his name is Shaw. Shaw’s that perfect kind of cinematic villain because he exists to be tough and ooze reptilian cool while remaining solely focused on moving his evil plot forward and Luke Evans does a real good job at being that hard to attain mixture of male model and terrorist. He’s a comic book villain and it makes sense because the Fast and Furious series has become a comic book franchise. If the automotive derring-do delivered by Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in early installments didn’t seal it, the larger than life incarnation of Dwayne Johnson sealed the deal. Impossibly beefy with arms that no longer seem capable of resting in the near vicinity of his torso, the once and future Rock has no less that three superhuman feats in this film. Vin Diesel has one that will astound audiences in how unrealistic it is. All of this feeds why this franchise has becomes so electric. By making it a superhuman franchise and shooing away the trappings of the traditional action movie it has given itself a new toolbox and unlimited possibilities. The post-credits reveal of the next films’ villain only adds to the magic.
The film’s not great though. It’s not as good as the last film, a very effective and supercharged winner. But it’s good. Having been able to spend so long with these characters the series has been able to allow it to take on an episodic nature and though there’s not an actor in the cast [shoulda kept Ted Levine] who’ll win an award for their work, it works. The surfer and meathead aesthetic has been replaced by this sense of family the series pushes so hard for. It’s thin but somehow Vin Diesel and Paul Walker sell it. Walker in particular has some very good moments in the film’s first act and it’s apparent that these guys know exactly what they’re doing and how to take the threadbare premise and maximize it. The supporting cast all does well though Tyrese Gibson’s act has most certainly worn out. This crew is like the remedial building’s version of Danny Ocean’s crew and their vehicles have also become superheroes and Justin Lin knows how to shoot the shit out of action scenes.
There’s an adversary for each character, there’s some fantastic action and eye candy in the way of big beats and beautiful people. There’s plenty of momentum and the film never feels too fat and when it gets a little much they throw the excellent Shea Whigham John Ortiz into the mix to enliven things. This franchise will never be respected but it’s become a value add to the summer movie season and without any reservations do I say that people will absolutely get their money’s worth here.
Who’s the hugest man in the movie?
Not Vin Diesel, who looks like Ant Man next to The Rock. And despite his painfully jacked up body, Dwayne Johnson’s not the hugest either. There’s another hulking dude in this movie who looks like his bowel movements change the properties of porcelain, but anyone who doesn’t like seeing Vin AND Dwayne take the man on just ain’t alive.
No one ever dies in these movies!
Innocent people have their faces driven over by a tank. People lose a lot of life. Even though Letty came back from the dead here (and it’s a lame explanation) the team experiences some loss here. People die in this movie, and not happily.
Nick, you’re supposed to be an online critic. How can you support this?
Because it’s good and it’s evolved. Because pre-determining a film’s quality is absolutely a disservice to the readership. Fuck the haters.
Why isn’t Joseph Kahn directing these?
That’s a great question. Why the fuck isn’t he directing these? James Wan is doing the next one and I am a long-standing critic of his. I think he’ll prove me wrong with part 7 though. That said, Joseph Kahn could own this series.
How many more of these can they get away with?
I bet they could pull ten off and no one will be sad. The people they were selling to with the first film have mortgages and strollers filled with kids now, but dumb entertainment is a perennial resource. Good on them for seizing the day.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.