I think by now we know how these movies work, which may account for why we like them so much. Fast & Furious 6, like every Fast & Furious film that came before it, is a full-on, pedal-to-the-metal thrill ride that goes through its brainless plot with such energetic heedlessness that it rams through every mental roadblock we set up. Or maybe we don’t set them up at this point. Maybe we’ve become so accustomed to these movies that we know to drop our defenses before entering the theater. If after six chapters you’re still approaching this franchise from the angles of plausibility, character development, or even story, I don’t have much hope that you will ever learn. These movies are made purely for entertainment. They require not an ounce of thought on your part.
It’s not that they take themselves more seriously than other action films. It’s that they do a much better job of not taking themselves seriously. Unlike unwatchable dreck like the Expendables films, both of which were nothing more than self-referential, testosterone-pumped shoot-’em-ups, these movies have a sense of style, and when they have fun, it’s never at the expense of the audience’s intelligence. The filmmakers know that we know what they’re doing. How else to explain the final car chase sequence, which not only involves an impossibly long airport runway but also features several cars dangling from a gigantic military aircraft carrier via tether cables shot out of harpoons? Or an earlier sequence in which two people fly at each other in midair over a freeway overpass, catch each other, and land safely on a car on the opposite side of the road?
At the start of the film, we see that the criminal crew that successfully masterminded the heist in Rio have retired, rather comfortably, into different corners of the world, knowing they’re all wanted in the United States. Of the crew, former LAPD officer Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend, Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), have had their lives changed the most – they now have a baby, a son named Jack. But as we all know, career criminals cannot stay in retirement for long. Here enters Luke Hobbs, a Special Agent for the Diplomatic Security Service (Dwayne Johnson); he need Mia’s brother, Dominic (Vin Diesel), to reassemble his crew in order to hunt down a British Special Forces soldier named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who destroyed a Russian military convoy and is looking to sell a powerful and deadly computer chip to the highest bidder.
Hoping to convince Dominic to take the mission, Hobbs shows him surveillance photos revealing that his former girlfriend, Letty Ortiz, was in fact not killed during the events of Fast & Furious, the fourth film in the series. Dominic accepts the mission, but only on the condition that he and his crew be granted full pardons and be allowed to return to the U.S. And so the setting shifts to London, where we find that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is suffering from amnesia and has apparently turned evil, since she’s now one of Shaw’s cronies. Rest assured, a shortage of action sequences is not something this film suffers from; we will see several car chases on streets that may not be deserted but are curiously light on traffic, brutal hand-to-hand combat both in a London Underground station and on the aforementioned aircraft carrier, and, for the first time in several years, a street race.
To say that the film is ludicrous would be missing the point; as with all the other films in the series, any notions of practicality and believability were the first things to get tossed out the window. We’re not supposed to question the logic behind Mia, a new mother, not only allowing her boyfriend to actually take part in this mission but actively encouraging it. Nor are we supposed to analyze the logistics of Brian flying all the way back to Los Angeles, posing as a convict in order to infiltrate a prison and meet with a drug lord, getting out again, and going back to London in what seemed to be only a few day’s time. And please, don’t get me started on two scenes involving a prejudiced British car salesman. You just have to surrender yourself to it, accept it for what it is and what it isn’t. The instant you start thinking about it, you run the risk of giving yourself an aneurysm.
The film has its fair share of humor, which is only appropriate. Some of the best lines are reserved for Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges, whose characters are unquestionably the best at delivering zingers. There’s even a bit of dark comedy to be found in the character of Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), given the fact that we already know he will fulfill his desire to end up in Tokyo, and that he will meet his destiny once he gets there. The only thing about Fast & Furious 6 that gave me pause was a post-credit sequence that was clearly intended to bring a well-known actor into the franchise. Let’s just say that this person’s cinematic track record leaves much to be desired. It is, in fact, such an uninspired casting choice that I fear it will do more to bring down the franchise than help it continue to thrive.