Dir. Justin Lin, 130 mins, rated 12A
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans
Watching The Fast And The Furious back in 2001, few would have imagined that this dumb but entertaining movie about a group of street-racers with a sideline in high-speed truck hijackings was about to launch one of cinema’s most lucrative film franchises (according to boxofficemojo.com, the 20th most successful franchise of all time – and that’s before the takings from this latest effort have come in). Yet here we are, 12 years and five installments later, with the release of Fast & Furious 6. True, there have been speed bumps and diversions along the way, but over the course of the series, Universal Pictures have been extremely canny in transitioning the films away from the niche street-racing culture and towards a more box office-friendly action series written around high-speed heist set pieces.
Sitting pretty atop a pile of loot from the previous film’s heist, the gang of fugitive drivers led by ex-street racer Dom Toretto (Diesel) and former FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Walker) have only one problem – they can never go home again. Right on cue, former nemesis Agent Hobbs (Johnson) turns up to offer the chance of a full pardon; but only if they agree to help him take down a team of skilled but murderous hijackers and their leader Owen Shaw (Evans). Hobbs gives Toretto another motive for coming on board – proof that not only has Torretto’s former lover Letty (Rodriguez, believed murdered two films ago, in Fast & Furious) actually survived, but that she is now working as Shaw’s ruthless right-hand (wo)man.
And so the poachers turn gamekeepers (or in O’Connor’s case, turn back) and, after an obligatory getting-the-team-back-together montage, head to London (Hollywood’s city du jour it would seem) for a first crack at Shaw. Though few Londoners will recognize their city here, particularly the oddly deserted Piccadilly Circus streets that play host to the film’s one token racing scene, or the decrepit Tube platform with its flaking walls and ancient-looking carriages (the filmmakers apparently making little attempt to dress the long-closed Aldwych underground station).
First, the bad news: it’s a film where the acting treads a thin line between downright terrible and just plain wooden, and it’s a film with an incredibly dumb script. It’s a film where, despite the villain specializing in in-transit hijackings, the protagonist decides that a piece of sensitive military hardware is best removed from a well-fortified army base and transported by road with only two jeeps for protection. It’s a film that includes a completely superfluous subplot where O’Connor has himself arrested and incarcerated so he can question another inmate (the drug dealer Braga from Fast & Furious), yet doesn’t even bother to properly explain the villain’s motivations (“he is stealing these gadgets to sell to terrorists” is all we get). And best of all, it’s a film where, as far as Toretto and his gang of outlaw drivers are concerned, gravity is just another law to be broken.
The good news is: none of this matters. Fast & Furious 6 is a film that is almost entirely composed of overly-muscled bald men thumping each other while cars fly through the air, and boy is it entertaining; from the scene where Johnson’s Federal agent interrogates a Vin Diesel lookalike by demolishing the interview room with the suspect’s head, to the film’s ridiculously OTT Mad Max-esque climax where a giant cargo plane thunders down a seemingly never-ending runway as various cars battle each other at high speed alongside (and at one point inside) it. And there’s an impossible leap across two high bridges that is perhaps the film’s crowning moment of glorious idiocy.
Yep, this is the sort of film where you don’t just leave your brain at the door, you chuck it in the bucket seat of your souped-up Nissan Skyline. And as long as you’re willing to do that, you’re in for an utterly daft yet undeniably fun action movie that makes the initially intimidating two hour-plus running time race by.