Fast and Furious 6
I've always enjoyed the films, even at their weakest they delivered fun and fast cars but I never expected the franchise to become as good as it did in the fifth film, Fast and Furious Five (Fast Five) (Filmstalker review). That had built a hope in me that the sixth was going to be just as strong if not better. It was also set to be Justin Lin's last film directing the franchise despite being asked to stay for another, apparently he wasn't keen about the time scale the studio were pushing for on the production and while that was a dark portent in itself, the fact that this was his last film was bolstering my hopes.
Fast and Furious 6 is a tough film to rate for me because I love the franchise for so many different reasons, there are some key pillars that keep them standing tall in my eyes. Those are the fast cars, the camaraderie of the characters, the incredible situations they put the cars in, and lastly the appearance of the S2000 in a couple of the films. Up until the fifth film that's what was drawing me back and it was and still is a guilty pleasure. Then the fifth did something special, it pushed those key elements back from the fore and brought in something new, the story. We suddenly had a heist film that had aspects of drama and thriller and that was much more than a Fast and Furious film from the past.
So I'm rather disappointed to say that the sixth film slips away from what the fifth delivered and takes a step back to the rest of the series, and while that isn't a terrible thing for franchise fans it is for everyone who came on board with the sixth, as well as for the franchise itself.
The film does try to be as strong as the previous by coming armed with a good core story which would elevate the team and echoing the ideas of the previous, in fact on paper and before viewing this story would appear stronger than the fifth. Not only do they have the combative adversary and fantastic story related car sequences but they are also fighting to get one of their own back to the family. It has those strong core elements of the franchise and it has the new elements that came to the fore in the fifth film. Added to that it has the cast returning with Vin Diesel; Paul Walker; Dwayne Johnson; Jordana Brewster; Tyrese Gibson; Sung Kang; Gal Gadot, and Ludacris, the addition of Gina Carano, and a great bad guy in the guise of Luke Evans. Oh, and a surprising character return.
Yet despite all these signs the film doesn't deliver as well as the fifth, and while that only knocks it into second or third place out of all the films in the franchise and still means that it's a decent film, it isn't the step forward I had hoped for nor is it managing to keep pace with the previous.
Returning to this film is some of the silliness of the franchise, the sequences that are just too crazy to believe and are nothing more than action sequences bolted in the film, the gaping plot holes and the crazy character decisions. While these don't overpower the film, they do have a heavy impact and result in the film being knocked back down the Fast-o-meter.
Surprisingly the problem isn't so much the huge action sequences which are just too over the top, of which there are a couple, the real issue is with the big plot holes and strange character choices. There are a lot of plot holes, too many to mention in fact, and these are really what affect the story and bring down the film for me.
I mean let's forget for a moment that the American Government really needed to hire a team of fugitives to stop an international criminal organisation and that all they have really tried so far are the standard police force, okay that's already a big step to take but that is what the entire story is built on, and for me it was already a big hurdle to be taken over and one that the film never even attempted an explanation at.
Let me leap to another huge moment, the one where Hobbs has an item the criminals are after secured tightly in a high security army base under heavy guard. Instead of staying there and protecting the item he decides to ship it out to another location, by road. Now they clearly know that the team they are up against carry out their attacks using vehicles and that they are a specialised squad dealing in vehicular warfare. This moment is insanely stupid and is a perfect example of just how dumb the character choices can get.
I'm not even going to mention the craziness of the character return that we witnessed, the lost memory and all the against character decisions they make whether those decisions be as the original character or the one with the lost memory. It has to be one of the strangest character returns I've seen and equally provides some of the oddest character turns in the film.
It's actually amazing that these plot problems outweigh the expected silliness of the big screen moments. After all we were watching scenes in the trailer which showed standard road vehicles taking down a Hercules transport plane and that looked well over the top. The funny thing is that come that scene in the film you can actually accept it as being explainable and believable. For some reason there's been a lot of care taken to make sure this scene isn't a totally over the top one, couldn't they have taken the same care with the rest of the script?
Another surprise I feel myself saying is that this wasn't the silliest of the scenes in the film either, it was the closing moments of the highway chase. Now I have to say that this chase sequences was highly enjoyable, even with the addition of the tank I was taken in by it and once again accepted it as part of the story. However when it came to the crash and mid-air catch, the audience laughed out loud, just as much as I did, and it wasn't a laugh of enjoyment it was a laugh of ridiculousness. This undoubtedly had to be the silliest sequence of the film and it was so heavily cheese laden I can't understand how it made it through the edit and test screenings.
All that said the action sequences were strong and well filmed. It was exciting and despite much of the silliness that was going on it held your attention and provided a lot of fun and excitement. You just have to watch the highway chase scene or the night-time London street chase to see what I mean.
The filming and style was strong throughout, especially through the darker street action sequences in London. These lifted the pace and looked very slick, a pace that held through the entire film and through fast editing and quick story twists and turns, kept the excitement levels high.
Counter those with the dark scenes filmed on the runway near the end of the film and you found yourself struggling to see what was happening. In fact I would go so far as to say that they were unwatchable. We just lost almost all of the dramatic action in the darkness and fast edits, missing what car was where, who was on what car and what each of them were doing.
It's during these scenes that we lose a character we really shouldn't have and to be quite frank she should have been retained while the returning character was left out. I struggled to accept the return of the character as they really didn't feel as though they fitted with the rest of the family anymore. It felt as though the characters, their stories and the franchise had moved on from where this character had been left behind.
Indeed the closing scene is another aspect of the film I didn't take to. While the franchise has been moving forwards and onto better things this film seems determined to step backwards and that closing scene reeks of that desire. It's an aspect that, like the returning character, just doesn't fit with the evolved and developed franchise.
One welcome addition to the film is Gina Carano who adds a strong authenticity to the action and fight sequences. Quite literally her action sequences are breath-taking, as is the woman herself. She's not alone as Luke Evans provides a strong addition with his performance as the central baddie which isn't written as some cartoon bad guy just there to counter the leading man.
Despite the problems with the scripting and on screen action there are many good aspects to the story and there are some nice twists and turns which do get you by some of the bigger plot holes and sillier moments with a minimum of pain. However these more clever aspects do get a little lost in the frantic speed of the storytelling which reflects the speed of the rest of the film, driven forward with a power given to it through the highly efficient editing. The entire film, action sequence or not, is edited just like an action sequence. Fast paced and not an ounce of fat on it. That would have been great if this was an earlier film in the franchise but following on from Furious Five (Fast Five) (Filmstalker review) it seems a step back, hiding a potential story and plot from the audience and perhaps making it a little more exciting than it really was.
Frankly I think the main problem with the film stems from the core of the story, the idea that they are trying to bring down a terrorist team who are out to build a secret weapon which could wipe out a country - does that sound like a Fast and Furious film to you? It just doesn't fit. If this was a big international spy thriller then it would, but not the film it is, and this goes back to an earlier point I made about the believability of the set-up. This isn't Mission: Impossible, the scheme and resources are just too big for a small band of street racers. From the beginning the film asks the audience to take a huge hurdle and frankly most of us will stumble on it right there and then.
To close on a lighter note I feel I do have to mention the cars that were used in the film. There were some very interesting custom cars but the use of the Ford Escort was a great touch, even if it was in a completely daft moment it still looked fantastic.
I almost forgot to mention what happens after the film. Before the credits run we are treated to a surprising scene that delivers a huge shock of the franchise and reveals something big for the next film. Thankfully it provides a plot that isn't as big and as daft as the film we've just watched, but it could be one that is much more personal and powerful. It could also be one that provides a potential end to the franchise.
Stay after that shocking closing scene if you are a franchise fan for you'll see a great title sequence which is a homage to the entire series. Definitely worth sitting in your seat for.
Fast and Furious 6 aims too high from the beginning. While it initially sounds like it could be a much larger film than the rest of the franchise, just like its predecessor, when you look a little deeper than the pre-film promises you'll be disappointed.
There is a plot there that tries to lift it above the franchise, as the fifth did, but the story seems to be the wrong one. It's too big and focusses on an idea that is more suited to a Bond film than this story of criminal street racers. The opening premise is just too much to expect anyone to believe in and from there the many plot holes and strange character choices let you slip away from the film.
What keeps you there are the core values of the franchise, the characters and their relationships and the action sequences, even if they are a return to the over the top action of pre-fifth film.
If the idea of the film had been smaller and more believable with the action toned down a little and more concentration on not racing forward and forgetting key plot moments and character reasoning then we would have had a much better film.
As it stands Fast and Furious 6 is a strong second or third in the franchise league table but it is a big disappointment after the promise of the fifth film. The good news for fans is what the seventh might bring, as shown in the closing scene.
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