Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Fast & Furious 6’

by Ben Martin

If you had told me when I initially saw the original The Fast and The Furious at age twelve that it would inspire a massive franchise, now dubbed The Fast Saga, I wouldn’t have believed you. Nevertheless, it did just that, spanning eight sequels and one spin-off (thus far). I’ll be racing a quarter-mile at a time from the beginning of this franchise to its current finish line of F9. This time around, the gang returns to their lives of Fast & Furious living for family in Fast & Furious 6 (2013)!

Unlike the previous installments in what Universal Studios has now branded The Fast Saga, Fast Five (2011) set up a sequel by teasing the return of a supposedly deceased Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Everyone involved in that previous picture would return, but with one catch. Having helmed the last three Fast installments in a row, director Justin Lin announced that Furious 6 (Universal changed the title to Fast & Furious 6 after an online poll) would be his final film as a director because he wanted to work on other projects. Furthermore, Lin stated that he considered this entry to be the end of his Fast & Furious quadrilogy. While I can respect the director’s sentiment, I don’t feel that Lin’s four films form something cohesive enough to qualify as a legitimate quadrilogy; the franchise becomes a product of the broader action genre with Fast Five.

In any event, Furious 6 seemingly picks up mere months after its immediate predecessor. Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on the trail of a group of mercenaries led by the notorious Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who utilize cars to pull off their international crimes. Knowing he’ll need help to catch Shaw, Hobbs approaches Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and the rest of their ersatz family for assistance. Considering the whole crew walked away from the criminal life after making millions off their last job — and the birth of Brian and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) baby boy — they initially turn down their favorite lawman. But when Hobbs reveals that Letty is not only still alive but is a part of Shaw’s crew, everyone immediately agrees to the mission. Together, they all head to London to bring down Shaw and save Letty!

As with most of the sequels in this franchise, I remember enjoying Furious 6 upon my sole theatrical viewing. But, I must admit that I’d forgotten most of the movie in review since then. Upon re-watching the film for this column, I quickly realized why I’d forgotten so much about it. As I mentioned up top, Fast Five is the installment that pushed this series into full-blown action movie territory. Furious 6 doubles down on that and attempts to become something more than that by getting into a specific subgenre: the spy movie. 

Sadly, though, it just doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s the use of international spy subgenre, but this flick is where The Fast Saga jumps the shark. Sure, these movies never had the strongest screenplays. Heck, many of those scripts were just plain silly. The difference is that most of these sequels’ storylines function well in the B-movie-made-on-a-blockbuster-budget tone that is this franchise. 

Unfortunately, though, the story for this film is too far afield. I don’t buy into the idea that Hobbs would ever recruit the Fast family to work directly with him, even with the circumstances involving Letty. If anything, it’d make more sense for Furious 6 to be about the lawman chasing our protagonists. In its best moments, this film feels like a cheap Mission: Impossible ripoff (you can check out my review of that franchise here). The rest of it feels like screenwriter Chris Morgan decided to pen a feature film built from three episodes of a run-of-the-mill network TV spy show. Then there’s the whole inciting subplot involving Letty, which essentially involves the tired soap opera troupe of a long-lost love suffering from amnesia. Folks, this approach to bringing Letty back into the fold is eye-roll-inducing!

Perhaps it’s the fault of this ridiculous screenplay, and the dialogue it supplies these characters, but the acting in this installment is flatter than ever before. While the majority of the cast delivers serviceable enough performances in their well-worn characters, they seem to be doing so with the least amount of effort this time around. Then, there’s the actor who nearly imposed himself as this franchise’s key representative — Vin Diesel. Despite seemingly being all about living the Fast family life, he’s barely awake in this film. The only two cast members who seem to bring anything to the table are Rodriguez and Evans. Thanks to that soapy subplot, Rodriguez gets a little more than usual to do with her returning character. Meanwhile, Evans gives an entertaining performance as a nasty villain. The problem, though, is that he seems to be from a completely different movie.

Just like the cast, director Justin Lin and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon also seem tired. Despite excellent work on the past several films in this franchise, both the cinematography and direction here seem cheap and a bit shoddy in spots. I feel the only redeeming quality of Furious 6 is its action and car set pieces. All of which are highly enjoyable and dumb fun. Outside of the action, though, Fast & Furious 6 is a Franchise Implosion. This sixth entry is where the franchise tries to drive to a new destination. Unfortunately, though, the movie and everyone involved in its production seems to run out of gas in the process.

Fast & Furious 6 is available on all home video formats.

F9: The Fast Saga is Now Playing

Next time around, we’ll take one final ride with Dom & Brian in Furious 7 (2015) before this franchise irrevocably changes.

Looking Back A Quarter-Mile At A Time:

The Fast and The Furious (2001)

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast Five (2011)

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