Expert film discussion from completely unqualified people


April 2, 2015

Well, I asked for it. 

In this seven-part series, Rob watches the Fast and Furious films for the first time. Check out Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, and Part V here

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

"This is gonna be awkward."
"But sexy as hell."

So the Fast gang has the bad guy cornered, right? His plan for world domination has been foiled. But TWIST: He's captured one of their own and will only exchange their safety for his release. The gang agrees, and the villain makes his escape via military airplane. Not standing for this kind of disrespect, the Toretto boys burst into action in their suped-up sports cars and chase the plane down the runway. With seconds ticking away before takeoff, they load their Nos-powered grappling guns and take aim at the plane. You see, the plan is to hook onto the hull and use the weight of the cars and the custom tensile fiber designed by Tej to force the plane back down to earth before it can escape. Meanwhile, Dom and Hobbes are going to board the plane and take on the bad guy personally. Dom wants to teach him a lesson for brainwashing Letty, and Hobbes wants to personally lay the smack-down on the double agent he thought he could trust. The villain catches on, though, and sends his cronies to intercept on the runway. One of them is hot on the tail of our lead car, which carries two heroes. At the last second, just before disaster strikes, one hero makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of the other. 

And at that moment, something happened to me. I welled up. I shouted at the screen. I was angry. Confused. Heartbroken. And that's when I realized that these movies have completely broken me.

The scenario I just described is one of a dozen that make Fast and Furious 6 the best James Bond movie never made. It's Fast Five on steroids. It's complete and utter nonsense held together by random happenstance and sheer will. Following-up the stinger from the previous film, Hobbes is hot on the trail of a shady group stealing Highly Dangerous MacGuffins from military convoys. Their membership is mostly unknown save for Letty, who was believed killed in Fast and Furious (I called that shit, didn't I?). Hobbes uses this emotional leverage against Dom and Brian, who quickly assemble their team on the promise of full pardons for all. The plan is to stop the bad guys before they can get the last MacGuffin and to bring Letty home. That's about it, really. Things are pretty simple this time. You take the standard car stunts, throw in some fist fighting, a little cloak-and-dagger, and you've got the gist. Oh, there's a big-ass tank in there too. 

Fast and Furious 6 succeeds on so many more levels than it fails that it's difficult to choose a place to begin. We're shifting genres again, moving from crafty heisting to the truly ridiculous superhero adventure. This is exactly what I've been waiting for. The characters in FF6 are completely bullet-proof, surviving crash after crash, blow after blow, and clearing cavernous gaps in a single bound. They're scaling walls, leaping from airplanes, and walking through fire. It's glorious schlock and I love every second of it. At the same time, FF6 is somehow a bit darker and more menacing than previous installments. The stakes actually feel real. What's most gratifying though, is that it has something on its mind: Family. Dom's modus operandi is center stage this go-around (rather than the cursory mention in each previous film), driving everything he does and granting him license to break every law of gods and men. These films have always been machismo-driven power fantasies, but this one firmly grounds itself in the "papa bear" mentality, giving each character someone to protect and a lifestyle to preserve. Love of family keeps them united and contrasts spectacularly with the sociopathic recklessness of our very first dyed-in-the-wool Villain. Shaw is a great foil for our heroes, and the only reason I'm completely fine with Letty somehow having laser-guided amnesia is because Dom bringing her back to the fold is the emotional arc of the entire film. When the gang gathers around that original table $100 million and one baby richer, it really does feel like home.

Sorry, I was getting a little sappy there. Some quibbles: Like its predecessor, FF6 is far too long. The "Brian in prison" subplot feels like something left over from the first draft and serves no purpose at all, and there are entirely too many "gather back at the Batcave" sequences. There's quite a bit of treading water in this script. Three lefts are always used to make one right. And of course nothing makes any sense. The dialogue is bad and there are plot holes that could swallow planets. That being said, the sloppy plotting feels more earned here than in previous installments because (like a Bond film) we know that all of these interludes are just connecting the dots to the next action sequence, and those hold together so well and these cartoon characters are so defined at this point that I'm not bothered by convolution. We get some great Dom/Hobbes moments and HOLY CRAP that ending. 

Actually, can we talk about that for a second? This may be the best example of ret-conning I've ever seen in any medium. Han's journey in Tokyo Drift is so much heavier and more important to the continuity now that we've seen how it influences Furious 7. Sure, they're careful to give him a line in each film about how he wants to go to Tokyo so that the audience knows that the third film hasn't happened yet, but good god damn. I didn't expect this sophisticated a tie-in. And that reveal? I won't spoil it, but I thought adding The Rock was a good idea. This is the cherry on top. 

Now I have to wait for Furious 7 to hit theaters. I'm incredibly proud of Justin Lin and his crew for taking a cynical and adolescent franchise based on a magazine article and turning it into something really special. Vin Diesel wasn't joking when he said Furious 7 should win Best Picture. I'll bet it's better than half of the films the Academy has honored in the past. Film criticism is all relative, of course, and as I come down from this high, I'll remind myself that these are not smart films. They are not creative, nuanced, or in any way profound. But they know what they are. They're the sugary soda that rots my teeth, the cheesy pizza that clogs my arteries. But really, how would you rather go out? 


  1. Great stuff, man. I have enjoyed vicariously taking the FF journey with/through you. Also, now I can cherry pick the franchise and not suffer through some of the flops like Tokyo Drift, though I think I could have known to omit that one without the help. I don't have much of a soft spot for shlocky, over the top action per say, but I definitely have the gene for it.

  2. Thanks for reading. As much as I love Han, I think Tokyo Drift is the one you can omit (though you'll be confused by the ending of FF6). I think the only problem is that you'll be confused by who Sean is in Furious 7, but I'm sure they'll do a recap or some sort of explanation.

    In terms of an appreciation for schlock, I ignored these movies because I thought they were too mainstream and not "interesting" or "charming" enough schlock (like Crank), but I was definitely wrong. It's been a good learning experience.