The “Fast and Furious” franchise is like popcorn movie kryptonite – it’s my only weakness. (Okay, maybe not my only weakness.) But for as cheesy, soapy and utterly preposterous as the movies can get at times, they’re also incredibly entertaining, especially following director Justin Lin’s retooling of the series. Though the sixth installment doesn’t quite live up to 2011’s “Fast Five,” which took the franchise to new heights in more ways than one, it still delivers everything that fans have come to expect over the years. Bigger and dumber but still tons of fun, “Fast & Furious 6” may have you rolling your eyes even more than usual, but that’s part of what make the series so great.
Picking up several months after the events of “Fast Five,” the movie finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) laying low in Spain when he’s visited by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with some interesting news: his old flame, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), isn’t quite as dead as previously believed. In fact, she’s working with a British soldier turned criminal named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who’s planning on stealing a top secret computer chip worth billions, and Hobbs needs Dom’s help to catch him. With the promise of full pardons for everyone involved, and the added incentive of finding out what happened to Letty, Dom enlists the rest of the crew (save for Puerto Rican jokesters Tego and Rico) and heads to London to face off against Shaw and his own team of street racing criminals.
One of the biggest reasons “Fast Five” worked as well as it did was the excellent chemistry between its ensemble cast, and that continues in this installment. Everyone has their part to play, although Paul Walker’s role has been surprisingly downgraded this time around. Johnson, on the other hand, is given more screen time now that Hobbs is playing nice with Dom and Co., while Sung Kang remains the standout of the supporting players. It’s also nice to see Rodriguez return to the series after her limited appearance in “Fast & Furious,” and the reasoning behind her mysterious survival is handled both swiftly and smartly. Lin has even brought in “Haywire” star Gina Carano (as Hobbs’ right-hand man) to serve as the perfect adversary for Letty, leading to a pair of fight scenes that are almost as good as the Diesel/Johnson brawl from the last film.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the incredible action on display. Whereas “Fast Five” was more of an “Ocean’s Eleven”-type crime caper, “Fast & Furious 6” feels like a straight-up action film, jam-packed with a series of excellent set pieces that somehow manage to outdo the previous movies in excess and sheer ridiculousness. The over-the-top nature of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has always been its greatest asset and its biggest criticism, and there’s no better example of that than in some of the gleefully entertaining “Oh my god, I can’t believe that just happened” insanity that takes place in the film.
The fact that more than one instance of this occurs throughout the movie certainly favors its detractors, but at this point in the series, you probably shouldn’t be watching these films if you’re still complaining about the types of miraculous, logic-defying feats of physics that have become customary. And in that respect, “Fast & Furious 6” doesn’t disappoint, all while tying together past installments and setting up futures ones (the end credits stinger shouldn’t be missed) with such ease that it’s no wonder why Universal fast-tracked a sequel before anyone even saw this one. And truth be told, I can barely hide my excitement.