Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Jordana Brewster with Gina Carano and Luke Evans
Plot: When Letty (Rodriguez) returns from the dead and is working with dangerous criminal (Evans), Toretto (Diesel) and the gang are brought out of retirement to get her back.
The film opens shakily. After whizzing through the credits scene, which doubles as a ‘Previously’ montage, we race through that ‘exposition thing’. We learn that Brian O’Connor is starting a family, Letty is back from the dead and the gang all reunite, turning away from their life of riches. Seeing as the last few films have been pretty much a reunion, I can see why they played this down, but I was still surprised at how quick the movie got together. However, as you will learn when watching it, this film has a lot to cover, so it’s probably for the best.
The best way I can summarise what to expect from this film is ‘the year’s best fight sequences’, but the year’s ‘worst dialogue’. Yeah, sometimes it does get pretty bad: ‘We’ve run out of alphabets!’ But at the same time, when the director gets in Joe Taslim from the Raid to kick both Sung Kang’s and Tyrese’s ass at the same time, I am willing to forgive a couple of dud one-liners. The trick with this film is to go into the cinema, expecting no intelligence, but loads of fun. While I spent the first half hour questioning the plot (for a long while, Toretto’s gang wasn’t even really needed by Hobbs), but then I just took the film at face value and had a blast. There is one scene near the end that will sum up if this film is for you or not: it defies gravity and biology, but god, was it cool.
My main problem with this film is the large number of cast that the films have accumulated. While Star Trek managed to give each of its characters a respectable amount of time, the actors in Fast and Furious all seem to be clambering for the spotlight, rather than being organised in any sense. At times it came across as messy and there were some times, when I felt that the movie missed a few tricks. The main focus of the film was Toretto and Letty, but there were other elements that I felt needed exploring. Jordana Brewster is all but cut from this movie. Also, seeing as we all know what happens to Hans, there is a real opportunity to give his relationship with Gisele a bitter-sweet feel. As they planned their future, we, as the audience, would know it wouldn’t last. The film tried to do something with this, but with so many sequences to race through, there just wasn’t time to give the characters a stand-out scene to work with. It isn’t as though Lin isn’t capable of this. The street-race scene beautifully depicted Toretto and Letty falling in love all over again. It was a rare, elegant moment that elevated the standard of the film. If only, there was more of that, on top of the explosions and pretty cars.
Let’s look at the new cast members. In my opinion, the franchise has finally managed to write itself a worthy villain. Luke Evans is fantastic as Owen Shaw. At first, I pegged him down as a English actor, hamming up the British side to the villain, but eventually, he began to get some character aspects to work with. I enjoyed the moment where he began mindlessly killing the public, as it really gave a sense of how far-gone his character was. However, I agree with Empire magazine to an extent that, Shaw is never really allowed to achieve his full potential with the sheer number of characters running around this movie. There is even one too many nameless villains for my liking. I am still unsure whether I appreciate a last-minute twist or not.
Then there is Gina Carano, an actress I have wanted to check out for a long while now. I missed her debut with Soderburgh’s ‘Haywire’, but here, she shows us what she is made of with brilliant style. She is a feisty character with some breath-taking fight sequences. One of my favourite moments of the films was her battle with Letty in the London underground. I would like her to become one of the additions to the Fast and Furious franchise, although with the ever-increasing cast I find it hard to find a place for her to squeeze in. On the other hand, rumour has it that Dwayne Johnson may have to skip the seventh film, as his schedule doesn’t match up with the franchises. On top of these two additions, there are a few old faces that pop up (mainly to explain the Letty storyline), but you will struggle to remember at least one of them. It is as if this franchise expects you to go away and do your homework before coming to see this movie.
The old faces perform as well as ever. Vin Diesel shall always remain the highlight of the movies, radiating awesome with every line and stare. Dwayne Johnson tries to match him, but there is always a sense that he is ‘Dwayne Johnson’ rather than Hobbs. This thought becomes very apparent when the final fights kick in and Hobbs begins dealing out some moves that wouldn’t be foreign on a WWE wrestling ring. Paul Walker, who I have always thought was the weakest actor of the bunch, manages to impress me ever so slightly. He is not OSCAR winner, but his lines aren’t cringe-worthy this time around. Even Tyrese, the one character I would happily get rid of, sticks to the comic relief aspect of the films and his performance becomes, at the very least, forgiveable.
The thing with this film is that for every time the film does something a little flat or dis-heartening, it always makes up for it with some awesome slow-motion explosions. People have been saying (yes, that’s you Tim!) that this doesn’t hold a candle to Fast Five, but I am willing to see it as an equal to the fifth film. Dare I say it, but I may even hold this one in higher regard.
Final verdict: This film does what it does best and while there is clear room for improvement, it is impossible not to love the Fast and Furious franchise.
Good review Luke. It’s a whole bunch of fun, especially if you know what you’re getting into with this franchise.