The Need for Speed
The franchise's sixth film satisfies fans with cars and action, as long as you're not too critical
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans
Directed by: Justin Lin
Stars: 3 out of 4
"The Fast and the Furious" (2001): LAPD Officer Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) goes undercover in the street racer subculture to bust a hijacking ring, and his loyalties are soon divided due to a new-found friendship with legendary street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Toretto's girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Toretto's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).
"2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003): O'Conner is now a former cop who teams with ex-con pal Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) to transport a shipment of dirty money for a Miami drug dealer while he's actually trying to get out of trouble by working undercover for federal agent Monica Fuentes (Eve Mendes) to bring down the drug dealer. And Chris "Ludacris" Bridges joins the cast as Tej Parker.
"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006): An aberration in the franchise, because our heroes are absent except for a Vin Diesel cameo. This film, with all new characters, allegedly takes place sometime in the future, after "Fast & Furious 6." It does introduce Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang) who, due to the time shift, can die here and still be in films four through six.
"Fast & Furious" (2009): Toretto and now federal agent O'Conner are back together in Los Angeles. They must resolve their feud and work as a team to bring down a heroin smuggler.
"Fast Five" (2011): Now, former cop O'Conner is on the opposite side of the law since breaking Toretto out of prison. The duo gets the band back together in Rio de Janeiro to pull off a megaheist while fending off a corrupt businessman who wants them dead and federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who's determined to bring them to justice.
When you get to the sixth film in a series, there aren't too many questions about what that film has to offer.
In the case of "Fast & Furious 6," people aren't headed to the theater for the great writing and acting. The "Fast" franchise is all about custom cars, action sequences and revisiting the now-familiar characters.
And Part 6 delivers on all counts. There are dozens of cars, constant action, an over-the-top villain and pretty much every character who hasn't been killed in a previous movie.
In fact, much of the plot is centered around a popular character who's back from the dead.
We learn early on that Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), the original love of antihero Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) who was killed (or so we thought), is actually alive and running with a crew of international criminals pulling outrageous international heists, using custom cars and massive firepower.
This new crew has become the bane of existence for Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), the supercop introduced in "Fast Five" to be the foil for the popular gang of street racers turned international thieves.
Now Luke wants to team up with Toretto, ex-cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of the gang to catch megacriminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Shaw and his crew are so much like our heroes that they're essentially their evil doppelgangers.
Luke promises pardons, but the real carrot to lure the gang back, since they're living in the luxury of their own successful heist from "Fast Five," is the chance to get Letty back.
From this convoluted starting point, our rainbow coalition of miscreants race through the streets of England and Spain, matching wits with Shaw and his crew. All of this naturally lends itself to bigger, more elaborate and, of course, even more unbelievable stunts than the previous five outings.
It's the outrageousness of such things as armor-plated racecars, the team taking on a tank, and an extended battle around and aboard a cargo plane as it takes off that make the movie work. Several of the stunts are so ludicrous, they're downright laughable. But franchise fans will love it, and folks new to the films can have a good time, too, provided they aren't too critical.
Like many of today's action films, the movie's logic shouldn't be examined too closely if you want to enjoy it. If you start thinking about how long that runway would have to be for the cargo plane to take more than five minutes to take off, it spoils the fun.
The film does resolve many loose ends from the previous movies, putting the team in a situation where they could walk away from their high-octane lifestyle.
But one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood is that filming is already underway on "Fast & Furious 7," with Jason Statham starring as Shaw's brother, hellbent on revenge.