“Let’s go for a little ride,” teases Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto at the start of Fast & Furious 6, an amusingly mild suggestion that’s also the only moment of understatement in two dizzyingly high-octane hours.
In the first five minutes alone, director Justin Lin speeds us from the Canary Islands to Moscow to London, while also summarising the five “F&F” films that came before.
The recap is fun but hardly necessary. Every movie in this franchise is almost identical, except for how (nearly) each one is better than the last.
That’s true this time, too. Somehow Lin just keeps topping himself, with bigger fights, badder villains, bolder chases. And while Diesel was born to make these movies, his pit crew has grown into a satisfyingly connected team.
“Family” is the word Dom uses, as often as possible. The communal spirit is what gives the “F&F” series its unexpected heart. This chapter is all about a family reunion.
Dom’s long-ago love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), was killed in the fourth film. But Fast Five revealed her to be alive, and now we learn that she’s working for another team, led by the devilish Shaw (Luke Evans). He is on the verge of building some sort of technological warfare, and Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) needs Dom’s help to stop Shaw.
Soon Dom, his best friend Brian (Paul Walker), and their crew (including Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Gina Carano and Sung Kang) are in London staking out Shaw. They’re ready to take him down, but all Dom really wants is to see Letty again. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to have any idea who he is.
It’s hard work making a formula feel fresh, so most popcorn directors rely on a bloated budget and brainless action. But Lin understands this track inside and out, backwards and forwards — four directions out of countless others in which he spins us.
Complaints? Well, some members of the supporting cast are better than others. Rodriguez and Evans are particularly strong; Carano and Jordana Brewster, as Dom’s sister, are especially stiff. There are at least two more endings than we really need, and Dom’s solemn sentimentality is as silly as it is endearing.
The plot, though serviceable and boosted by humour, remains an excuse on which to hang breathtaking chases, meticulously choreographed hand-to-hand combat and the occasional explosion.
With all this outsized action, the filmmakers deserve praise for rejecting 3-D, so often used as a cynical bottom-line booster. But then Lin and Diesel, who also produced, aren’t just looking to grab our cash. They actually want us to have a great time.
After all, at this point, we’re members of the “F&F” family, too.
— NY Daily News