There’s a temptation in reviewing the sixth film in the successful The Fast and the Furious series to resort to monosyllabic caveman speak. Something along the lines of: Car fast, girl hot. That’s not precisely an insult, mind you, but more of an acknowledgment of the admirably uncomplicated formula the series has worked out for itself. We have tricked-out Japanese sports cars. We have the occasional classic American muscle car. We have a multiethnic cast decked out in a wide selection of tank tops. We have lots and lots of hip-hop music. And there’s some sort of unending chase scene happening in some exotic locale for some reason. More details than that are basically superfluous.
The newest outing—which doesn’t bother to expend the energy to call itself anything more than Furious 6 in the opening credits—gives fans everything they want and more. So long as “more” translates as “more of the same.”
Over the course of six films, former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and former car thief Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) have flip-flopped between rule-breaking good guys and do-gooding criminals so many times, it’s no longer worth differentiating which side of the law they’re actually on. This time around tough-guy federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is recruiting them to bring down car-loving British mercenary Owen Shaw (the apparently godlike Luke Evans, who played Apollo in Clash of the Titans and Zeus in Immortals). Rest assured, second bananas Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris are along for the ride as well. Seems that Dom’s main squeeze, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez, who sat out 2011’s Fast Five, having died in 2009’s Fast & Furious), is miraculously alive and working for the bad guys. The badder guys? Whatever. She’s back and suffering from the kind of amnesia that makes you forget everything except your ability to build and drive street racers. So naturally Dom reunites the old crew and heads over to England to bring down evil Owen Shaw.
Seems that Shaw is involved in a plot to steal some sort of highly valuable thingamajig. (Don’t worry what it is, it’s entirely irrelevant to the plot.) Naturally this theft can only be accomplished by driving lots of expensive cars really, really fast. Just as naturally this theft can only be prevented by driving lots of other expensive cars really, really fast. Director Justin Lin has been at this kind of thing since 2006’s The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. (Is there no consistency at all to the naming of these films?) He’s got it down to a science at this point, delivering scene after scene of nitrous-powered car porn. There’s an adrenaline-pumping scene in which Shaw and his minions pilot what are essentially mobile cowcatchers through the notoriously empty streets of central London, flipping their pursuers into the air. There’s a whopper of a tank chase down a highway in Spain (where apparently the laws of physics do not apply). Finally there’s a climactic battle against a cargo plane with countless vehicles rocketing down the longest airport runway in the history of the world.
It’s all very frantic and fast-paced and exciting. (Hell, the film doesn’t even wait until the closing credits to start the sequel!) Ultimately that’s a good thing, because you certainly don’t show up at these films looking for fine acting or scintillating dialogue. (Guy: “We’re about to have the time of your lives.” Girl: “No, you are.”) Viewers are advised not to apply any sort of logic to what happens on screen. The minute you start asking questions like Why is Paul Walker’s character going to jail exactly? or Why does everyone here drive a totally unique car or shoot a totally unique gun or use a totally unique type of paint (not kidding) that can only be traced back to one source?, you’re doomed. In fact, if the neurons in your brain are firing at all, you’re on the wrong track. The best way to watch this film is drunk off your ass or high on gas fumes.
As silly and outlandish as Fast & Furious 6 gets (and, oh my, does it), it’s impossible to write the film off. It at least has some self-aware sense of its own ridiculousness. (At one point, Mr. Johnson is referred to as the “Samoan Thor.”) This series has found its formula and is sticking to it like hot rubber to asphalt. Furious 6 delivers exactly the sort of shooty, punchy, explodey, drive-fasty action fans are expecting. If that’s not what you’re craving this summer movie season, then get the hell out out the way.