Vin Diesel - Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker - Brian O'Conner
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - Luke Hobbs
Michelle Rodriguez - Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson - Roman Pearce
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges - Tej Parker
Sung Kang - Han Seoul-Oh
Luke Evans - Owen Shaw
Gina Carano - Riley
Gal Gadot - Gisele Yashar
Elsa Pataky - Elena Neves
Genre - Action/Crime
Running Time - 130 Minutes
After achieving their goal of stealing $100 million during a heist in Rio de Janeiro, wanted fugitives Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), former cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), Dom's sister/Brian's girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster), and Dom's new girlfriend Elena (Elsa Pataky) are living in the Canary Islands in Spain to help raise Brian's and Mia's newborn son. Since they can't be arrested in the Canary Islands for their past crimes, the new family have nothing to really worry about.
However, things change when FBI agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) finds them. Not coming there to arrest anyone, Hobbs wants and needs Dom's and Brian's help in capturing some international criminal and a former Special Ops soldier named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs wants Dom and Brian to gather up their crew - including Han (Sung Kang), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), and Gisele (Gal Gadot) - to use their car driving abilities to stop Shaw and his own crew from building a bomb worth billions. While Dom isn't interested, Hobbs reveals that Dom's former girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is still alive and working for Shaw. Dom and Brian agree to help, as long as they receive pardons and able to go home as free people once the job is over.
- The best story in the franchise so far. I think after reviewing all these films within the past few weeks, I've clearly established that these films are normally more style than any sort of substance. The plots are usually thin, but it's compensated by the action and the fun factor that comes along with the action. It wasn't until FAST & FURIOUS when the stories started to gain a bit of depth, as the characters stopped trying to be cool and actually grew up - making them more sympathetic and giving them slight development within the race culture and action sequences that surrounded the plot. FAST FIVE advanced that as it attempted to tie in all the installments in the franchise into one film, adding a new character in Luke Hobbs that gave not only the characters, but the series a new dimension to feed off of and play with. The franchise wasn't just about racing cars for glory anymore to tell a weak story. The action become more elaborate. The characters started to flesh out a bit. And the screenplay gave audiences a reason as to why these films exist other than for money. The first three films were something of adolescence. The last three films allowed the franchise to grow up in a sense, while forming a clear identity and proving why THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS deserved its franchise to begin with.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6, believe it or not, has the best story and screenplay in the entire franchise. The fact that a fifth sequel and sixth installment in any franchise being the strongest is something that just doesn't happen in any film series. Usually, each installment gets weaker as they go. But THE FAST AND FURIOUS series has only gotten better as its gotten more confident with the stories they tell. There's a purpose to these films now for audiences, which is why the last three films [including this one] have been so damn successful. FURIOUS 6 may have the story with the most substance going for it. It brings the series full circle finally, and really shows us how far each of these characters have grown as people, rather than stereotypes like they were in the beginning. We care about Dom, Brian, Letty, Mia, and all the others now due to the storytelling and how each character is presented to us. It's really amazing to see how much this series has grown, and it puts a smile on my face because I really enjoy these movies on many levels.
The screenplay in FURIOUS 6 mainly focuses on the reappearance of Letty Ortiz, who was believed murdered in FAST & FURIOUS, but confirmed to be alive during the end credits of FAST FIVE. I was pretty worried about how this would play out since it was pretty established that Letty was killed. Was this the real Letty? Was this someone who looked liked her? But I liked the way the story played with her return. With Letty having amnesia, it didn't make her a villain - a person who betrayed Dom by going with the enemy. Her reasons for being with Shaw's crew are connected to events in FAST & FURIOUS, bringing back certain characters from that film to explain what was up. The film could have just ignored this, just going the easy route that Letty felt abandoned by her "family", deciding to join a new one. But they make Letty somewhat sympathetic, especially when she learns that she was once part of Dom's crew and starts sensing that she belongs with Dom rather than Shaw. In fact, Letty seems to be the only one in Shaw's crew that has a conscience, making it more obvious she's on the wrong side. Letty's interactions with Shaw, Dom, and even Brian [who blames himself for Letty's "death"] towards the end really flesh out her character more than THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST & FURIOUS did combined. In fact, Letty also fleshes out Dom and Brian in a lot of ways as well, as they both deal with her return a bit differently. It's nice to see an installment that has a reason for existing for something more than superficial. Letty's return creates a bit of drama, which I found quite welcoming.
I also liked that Owen Shaw, the film's villain, was actually written well. He's pretty much the opposite of Dom. While both are criminals and have their respective crews, they both see their "families" differently. Dom cares about the people he works with, seeing them as brothers and sisters rather than people who just work for him. Each character in Dom's crew is treated almost equally, and used accordingly to their skill set and their respective role within the team. Dom's crew are like a puzzle - they're parts required to come together to make something complete. Shaw's crew is different though. Shaw is obviously the leader and has the final say. He doesn't really care about what happens to his crew, as long as he gets what he wants. He finds emotions to be a weakness, which he uses against Dom towards the end. While Dom is warm, Shaw is cold and only cares about one person: himself. Shaw, in a lot of ways, is the best villain in the franchise so far. He's always two steps ahead of Dom and Hobbs due to the fact that he's focused on his goal and won't let anything or anyone distract him. There's a real sense of danger with this character that I never found with other antagonists in this franchise. This guy means business, but shows it in a real subtle, confident way. I liked the Shaw character and am excited as to what his fate will lead to in the seventh installment.
Other than that, I thought the characters were much better here. They all get their share of the spotlight, have great interaction and banter amongst themselves, and even make the Hobbs team up with Dom's crew feel logical and not forced. Is it a perfect screenplay? No. But it's come a long way since the first film. There's actual depth here and a sense of things coming together and going full circle. I was busy having too much fun trying to see the plot holes or moments that would be implausible in real life. That's the sign of a good action story that gives the audience everything they're looking for.
- The cast. Once again, the actors of FAST AND FURIOUS 6 show how far they've come in terms of becoming their characters, and understanding their roles and their motivations. Vin Diesel is pretty much Dominic Toretto at this point. He still has that presence and that charisma that allows him to have great chemistry with anyone he's on screen with. I liked the scenes he shares with Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and The Rock especially. Diesel has grown into the role and seems to "get it". He's having fun and we have fun watching him. Paul Walker is at his best here as Brian O'Conner. For once, I saw a guy who can somewhat act and be convincing in an action role. Maybe it's because he's older and stopped trying to be the pretty boy. But I've been liking Walker during the past few years in films. I think if there's anyone who's "Most Improved", it has to go to this guy. And Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a total bad ass as Luke Hobbs. He kicks ass, has presence and charisma, and even brings the funny when he's interacting with Ludacris [some of the best scenes in the film]. I think The Rock did a lot for this franchise. In a way, he made this series legit to a lot of eyes. I hear he's getting a possible spin off, which I would be in total support for. And I hope he does return for part 7 because I hate to see the franchise end without him being a part of that finale.
The rest of the cast is just as good. Luke Evans plays a great villain as Owen Shaw. He also has a lot of presence and seems to be having fun playing the bad guy. He took a one-note character and fleshed him out a bit - enough for him to feel like a true threat. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris bring the funny. Sung Kang brings his dry humor as Han, also kicking ass and getting his ass kicked. Sad that we already know what happens to his character because I really like the dude. Gal Gadot has more to do as Gisele, and I liked her in this film. Jordana Brewster doesn't get to do much as Mia, but it's understandable due to her role in the film. But she's fine. Gina Carano is okay as Hobb's sidekick. She's kind of stiff until she performs the action sequences. Her fights with Michelle Rodriguez are pretty bad ass, in my opinion. Speaking of Rodriguez, I really liked her here as Letty. She gave the character some depth and made her sympathetic. Plus, she's pretty bad ass too. I thought the cast was one of the film's highlights for sure.
- The pacing and direction. While I still felt FAST AND FURIOUS 6 was too long [it's the same length as FAST FIVE], I felt the flow and pacing was much improved in this installment. There's no real filler in this film, as things constantly move and happen, never making you feel bored. In fact, I kept getting more and more invested as the film went on. Things escalated from beginning to end, and for a two-hour-plus film, it felt much shorter. I think Justin Lin, who has been directing this series since TOKYO DRIFT and makes his final impression with FAST AND FURIOUS 6, has done a really commendable job turning this franchise around. It's still fluff - but not it's fluff we actually care about and look forward to seeing more of. Lin actually helped make the franchise BETTER, which is rare in itself.
As for Lin's direction of the action, it's on par with FAST FIVE. However, the sequences here are a lot more elaborate and almost borderline silly and impossible - but in a good way. The car chases are thrilling. I loved the new flip cars that Shaw's crew used. We get a cool explosion that was pretty tense. The tank scene, probably the best action scene in the film, was pretty wild. And the airplane final act, which I thought ran a bit too long, still impressed by how grand a scale it was to pull this off. I also thought the hand-to-hand combat stuff and gunplay were great as well. FAST AND FURIOUS 6 was the most exciting installment. I also thought the cinematography was great and the use of location was well done. It's sad Lin is leaving the franchise [due to Universal wanting to film the next sequel within a year's span, now with SAW director James Wan], but I admire and respect his ambition. He gets my complete respect for taking this franchise to new heights. He went out with a bang and he should be proud of himself.
- The after credits scene. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it. But let's just say that it finally ties in the tragic events of TOKYO DRIFT to the main franchise. We also get the villain for the next film, which has already been revealed prior to the film's release. And I am so excited for this actor to join the franchise. I think he's gonna be a great villain and really add something new. And it's great to finally have a FAST AND FURIOUS film that takes place after TOKYO DRIFT for a change now. I do think this next installment should be the last one, because I don't think there's much story left to tell. But if it is or isn't, I'll definitely be watching next year. The theater crowd went nuts for the reveal, myself included.
- Some small things. FAST AND FURIOUS isn't a perfect film. Like I mentioned already, it's still a bit too long. But at least it's well paced enough where you don't really notice. However, there were plot points that I felt lacked within the screenplay.
One of these major issues involved Shaw's plan. Apparently he was trying to steal components to make some huge bomb to blow something up, or something. I wasn't really sure what Shaw was planning or where it was going. I forgot all about his plan until it was mentioned again at the end, which isn't a good thing. I think more focus could have gone to the villain's purpose in the sequel. I remember the bomb being brought up, and me going "Oh, that's what Shaw was doing?" It felt like an afterthough for much of the film, which is unfortunate.
I also didn't like how the whole Letty-Dominic-Elena love triangle was resolved. It was way too easy and there was no drama at all. You clearly have a soap opera here to play with, yet it's pretty much brushed off until it's needed to make itself known again. Elena played a pretty important role in FAST FIVE, yet she's barely a presence here. It's obvious that Dom loves Letty more than he would Elena, but the resolution could have been stronger. Instead, it felt pointless.
THE FINAL HOWL
I really enjoyed the hell out of FAST AND FURIOUS 6. It has everything you want in an action film - a great cast, a story that has some depth, awesome action sequences, and a cool lead in towards its next sequel. It does have some issues in terms of certain subplots, but overall it's an entertaining and fun film that breezes right by and makes you want to see more. A definite summer movie blockbuster that deserves all the money its gets at the box office. Probably my favorite film of the summer so far and definitely my favorite FAST AND FURIOUS film.