Last time: a previously mediocre car-based action franchise discovered they’d accidentally created the Ocean’s 11 of car-based heist crews, so they put everyone in the same movie and sent them to work in BRAZIIIL!
Han continued to cheat the death that we already saw two movies ago, and as the credits start, we learned that Michelle Rodriguez
wants to buy a bigger house is about to return to the franchise. Let’s roll! (Damn it, these stupid movies just get in your head…)
This time around, the action moves to my favourite place in the world: London, England. Now, the streets in London are narrow, twisty, and congested, and it rains a lot, so surely this means the franchise will have to forgo the usual “illegal street race surrounded by scantily-clad women” scene, right?
No. Nothing ever means that.
Last we saw these furiously fast folks, Brian O’Connor and Dom Toretto were about to have a Rocky III-style private (and unfilmed) rematch race across their new, tropical, non-extraditing home. One might think that’s exactly where we pick up, but no: Dom and Brian are actually racing home to see Dom’s sister/Brian’s wife, Mia, as she gets well and truly sidelined from being an active player in the movie, just when she’d finally started getting interesting shit to do last time out. Sorry, I mean “as she goes into labour.” Autocorrect, am I right?
“As soon as you go through those doors, everything changes,” says Dom. “Our old life is done.” Also, he’s still with now-former Rio PD officer Elena, as long as I’m mentioning things that aren’t going to last past the first act.
The opening credits serve as a swift “previously on” montage, highlighting the major players and plot points from the previous movies… save for Tokyo Drift, which due to the Han issue still hasn’t happened yet. They also serve as a reminder of how much Paul Walker has aged since F&F1, but that’s old lady mortality for you.
Anyhoo, with all of that done, we rejoin Special Agent Hobbs, who pulls up (in a truly ridiculous pick-up truck/humvee… when you want an armoured car but might need to move a couch) to a crime scene in Moscow, where he meets his new partner Riley Hicks (MMA fighter/former American Gladiator Gina Carano), introducing her to us in the least graceful burst of exposition I’ve seen in ages. Hobbs is investigating a high-speed car-based crime, one we’re led to believe must have been Dom and company. But when Riley gets him five minutes with the only suspect the Russians caught, it’s not Dom at all, but a low-rent British Vin Diesel impersonator who Hobbs asks about his boss, Shaw. He asks him pretty hard, as Sin City’s Marv would say.
Okay, we’ll get back to Shaw and his evil-doing in a minute, but can we just talk about how ridiculous what’s happening is? Hobbs, an American agent, being allowed access to a Russian crime scene, allowed to interrogate a prisoner in Moscow, who he proceeds to toss around like a rag doll and nobody stops him?
The way he hurls the 230 pound suspect into the ceiling hard enough to break it is the least improbable part of this entire sequence.
“You don’t just pick up Owen Shaw like he’s groceries,” announces Hobbs, having learned his quarry is in London. “You wanna catch wolves, you need wolves!” And once again, Dwayne Johnson’s delivery is so over-the-top-macho perfect that it makes me forgive the fact that the last thing any serious law-enforcement officer would do is recruit a team of international fugitives to hunt a different, similar team of international fugitives, but that, ladies and gents, is our plot.
Dom wakes up to another perfect morning of tropical sunshine, fresh air, and Elena’s tasteful sideboob to find Hobbs waiting for him on the porch. Despite Dom’s desire to stay retired, Hobbs informs him that he’ll soon be begging Hobbs to help catch Shaw and his crew, by giving him a file proving that Dom’s true love Letty is alive and working with Shaw. Right in front of Elena. Come on, Hobbs, there’s a way to be a person about this.
Time to call in the team! Roman has a private plane that’s flying him and five (we have to assume) prostitutes to his penthouse (and giant yacht) in Macau, which I guess means he either invested his $10 million from the last movie really well, or is having one last party before going flat broke.
Tej has left his dream garage (maybe because it was lamer than his pre-established garage in Miami) and is hacking ATMs somewhere in the Carribean. Because Tej, the mechanic-turned-safecracker, is a hacker now, I guess?
Han and Gisele are interrupted from talk of settling down by the arrival of a squad of Chinese police… who seem to only be there to hand Han a phone so that he, Tej, and Roman can all receive the same phone call from Dom. And so they all drop what they’re doing (not hard, only Roman was doing anything difficult to interrupt) to meet up with Dom in jolly old England.
(The previously nameless Mexican henchmen are not present: they bet their entire Rio payoff on one spin of roulette in Monte Carlo at the end of Fast Five, and according to Brian were never seen again. Never were the brains of the crew.)
Brian’s the only one who needs convincing (the only one, which is weird for reasons I’ll explain in a sec), as he’s convinced Hobbs is lying, but if Dom’s going to be chasing Letty’s ghost, Brian’s in too. Brian’s wife and mother of his newborn son, Mia, swiftly agrees. Seriously. Right away. No question at all. Just bam, “Absolutely my husband should help you chase down an international thief and his dangerous crew. I’ll feel safer if my entire family is at risk.”
I mean, I guess she has a point, sort of? Dom and Brian protecting each other does add a level of safety that either running off on their own wouldn’t have. And I guess Letty is family to Mia as well. But it still feels odd that there wasn’t even a moment where Mia thought maybe this wasn’t the best idea. Or Elena! She gets on board with her new boyfriend trying to reunite with his great lost love super fast. I get that she understands what he’s feeling, but wow, she gave up her entire life for Dom, and has no qualms over what she will or could do when he inevitably dumps her for a not-dead Letty.
Hobbs explains to the crew that he wants them to capture Shaw, who has stolen a weapon that could cripple a country. Brian is the first to remember that only two people in this room have actually met or care about Letty, so he demands full pardons for everyone, something that worked so well in number four that Dom ended up sentenced to twenty years without parole.
Also Roman spent most of that scene begging change for the vending machine and ends it asking if they’re getting paid. I’m gonna go ahead and assume I was right about him blowing the last of his Rio heist money on that plane.
Shaw’s crew manages to outmanoeuvre team Toretto in their first encounter thanks to some car-hacking hockey pucks and bulletproof go-carts packing ramps capable of flipping cars twenty feet in the air.
And we learn that Letty may be alive, but she has… AMNESIA!
Seriously, is anyone else really over amnesia as a plot point? I’ve hated it since the mid-90s and it has not improved.
The two crews begin sniffing around each other, as Roman identifies Shaw’s gang as their “evil twins” (only with triple the white folk). After a run in with their counterparts featuring a pretty badass fight between Letty and Riley, Han and Roman getting their asses kicked by Evil Han, and Gisele scoring the first kill with one impressively calm and precise bullet to Evil Roman, Gisele finds a solid lead: to find Shaw, they need to see returning villain Braga, the Mexican drug-runner Brian and Dom brought down two movies back. The one who supposedly had Letty killed.
(I mean, he did, but flashbacks reveal that the henchman in charge of doing it was just the worst assassin ever. That was not a hard gig but he fucked it up royally.)
As part of their newfound respect for interfilm continuity, Brian calls in an improbable favour from one of his former FBI colleagues from F&F4 to get him into Braga’s LA prison under an assumed name (to make it easier for wanted fugitive Brian O’Connor to get back out of the US after), so that he and Braga can have an awkward reunion. Meanwhile, Dom tracks down Letty at… you guessed it… an illegal street race filled with scantily clad women, the one thing all cities in the Fast/Furious universe have.
It makes sense that Dom would try to win Letty back into the fold through a race. First, it’s neutral ground, and second, he’s been making women question their allegiances through smouldering looks and tragic memories of Letty since his return to the franchise. Why wouldn’t it work on actual (if amnesiac) Letty? Although it is a little odd that once they pass the starting line, there are no spectators. I guess British racers use the honour system. Seems British enough.
Skimming forward… Dom’s team catches Shaw after a car vs. tank chase/fight, Dom saves Letty’s life through a mid-air catch so physically improbable it made Daniel storm out of the room, and all seems well… but Shaw has captured Mia, so they have to let him out of custody. Also, Letty’s switched sides, but Riley was working for Shaw the whole time, so it evens out. This leads to Team Toretto and Team Shaw having a fight on and alongside a cargo plane driving down the world’s longest runway. Everyone (but Mia) gets a moment to be badass, Shaw is thwarted… but Gisele doesn’t make it, giving her life to protect Han. Don’t worry, Gisele… you’re going to a better place.
Not only do the surviving crew get their full pardons (in the US, anyway, probably still wanted in Brazil over the death of half the Rio police department), Dom gets his old house back. The crew gathers for a Toretto family barbecue, Han announces he intention to follow through with Gisele’s earlier suggestion they move to Tokyo (“It’s just something I gotta do,” he says, acknowledging that they’ve stalled catching up to Tokyo Drift as long as possible), Elena pops by for a final farewell before leaving to work for Hobbs (and to pay deference to Letty as Dom’s One True Love Interest), and all is mostly well.
But wait! Before the credits roll, we flash back/forward to Han’s fatal crash in Tokyo Drift. Turns out it was no accident… Han was hunted down and killed… by Jason Statham.
Jason fucking Statham. Now our car-based action franchise is finally complete.
It’s both better and worse than Fast Five, in different ways. Fast Five was an import car heist movie, whereas number six is trying to be an import car spy movie. And unless you actually are a James Bond flick, I find heist movies more entertaining than spy movies. There’s more satisfaction to the climax: it’s the culmination of all the pieces they put together, whereas here we just have a series of escalating car chases/action beats. Good ones, to be sure, but still.
Shaw is an effective villain, if kind of annoyingly smug. Actually most of the villains have been really smug. It does make it satisfying when they get knocked down a peg, though.
We probably have some of the franchise’s best fight work. They have Gina Carano and Dwayne Johnson in the cast, and know how to use them. Okay, Dom’s flying headbutt was ridiculous. No getting around that. But otherwise, the action beats are pretty impressive, if physics-defying.
However, it’s clear that following Fast Five, the ensemble got too big. Yes, it was already big, but they found stuff for everyone to do last time. This time out, with Hobbs already part of the crew, there wasn’t enough time for everyone, and it’s Elena and Mia who suffer. They’re sidelined almost immediately, with Mia only coming back to serve as a hostage in the climax. Elena I can live with, but after finally making Mia an active part of the team in Fast Five, it seems particularly sad to cut her role down so severely.
It’s not like the film wants to be a boys-only club… Gisele’s more kickass than ever, Riley and Letty get their moments to shine, but Mia (who even got to be part of the heist crew while pregnant) gets left out. It’s a shame that it’s the women who–
SHIT the no-name Mexicans. I keep forgetting about them. They’re just gone this time, which is a shame since they finally get both of their names spoken for the first time in three movies. Okay, fine, it’s not just the women who got cut back. Look, it’s a bit of a dick move to marginalize Mia, given she’s one of the original four. That’s all I’m saying.
And in terms of the overall series? It’s hard, when watching this, to recognize it as the same series as the first three movies. Yes, women in tiny skirts/shorts cavort around illegal street races, but the physics-nope action set pieces seem like an entirely different world than the simple drag races of F&F1.
It’s hard to follow a success. Fast Five was a breath of fresh air, a whole new twist on what these characters could be doing. Fast and Furious Six just kept running with that, and tried to crank the volume a little. It still works better than it has any right to… it’s just the novelty’s worn down a little.
I’ll say this, though. They made something happen that I would have thought impossible earlier in the week, when this all began as I watched Brian fail at undercover work… they made me eager to watch the next movie. God help me, when Jason Statham tells Dom “You don’t know me… but you’re about to,” I actively and unironically wanted to watch Furious Seven. I haven’t yet… but it’s coming.
And if the rumours are true, and Methusa-brah is taking Brian’s place in the crew in the eighth movie, which after “Fast Five” and “Furious Seven,” I assume will be called “And The Eight?” They will make me miss Paul Walker. That I never saw coming.
Fasts and Furiouses is over for now… next time, there is only The Smurfening.