The title card in the opening implies that the name of this film is actually just Furious 6, which, since the last one was Fast Five, makes a certain amount of sense. So I’m going with it.
Now, think back to other long-running movie series. Did any of them have a sixth installment that marked a high point? The Undiscovered Country was quite good, though certainly not the best of the Treks. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a solid Bond adventure, though generally forgettable. Half-Blood Prince was easily the low point of Harry Potter’s saga. Revenge of the Sith sucked. I never followed the Friday the 13th, Freddy Kruger or Saw franchises. I suspect the quality dropped a bit by their respective sixth outings.
That’s why Furious 6 is so exceptionally surprising. It’s the best of the series. (Caveat. I never saw 2 Fast 2 Furious or Tokyo Drift. I would be skeptical were someone to tell me they were better.)
After the heist movie structure of Fast Five, this was somewhat more straightforward. Most of the principles from the entire series return because Letty is still alive! (Letty was the love interest for Vin Diesel’s Dom in films 1 and 4, when she, seemingly, died.) The reintroduction of her character was actually handled very well. It was plausible enough, not to mention romantic.
That’s the emotional hook that brings the group of multimillionaires back together to help Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) track down and take down a thief named Shaw (Luke Evans). Shaw is one of those super-prepared, super-intelligent bad guys that are de rigeur in Hollywood now. But at least he doesn’t seem to have magical powers. Nothing he does strains believability, which is a nice surprise all by itself.
Watching the ads for this film, you start to wonder why Paul Walker is even still in the series, but I was pleased to see he had his own little story arc, one which ties in nicely with the fourth film. The way these movies remain interconnected makes this a real saga, and not just a biannual excuse to crash a lot of cars.
Oh yeah. The action. There are a handful of smaller bits spread throughout the film, but there are three main action sequences. The first is a straightforward chase through the streets of nighttime London. It’s great, but I was thinking, “Man, I hope the next sequence really blows the doors off.” Well, the next sequence, on a highway in Spain, does, in fact, blow the doors off, often literally. It’s wonderful stunt-person mayhem. It was so good (and this almost never happens to me) that I forgot about that crazy-ass scene in the trailer where Vin drives a car out of a crashing plane. No, really. I forgot that was coming. When the action ramps up again, I thought to myself, “Oh, this is going to be good.”
That final sequence, with a group of cars trying to bring down a cargo plane taking off, sets a new standard for insane action. I loved it. This is now one of my favorite action sequences ever put on film. Does it make sense? No. For example, it suffers from the “Longest Runway in the Universe” problem, though when did you ever see that not happen in a movie? (Goldeneye, maybe…) But everything was just this side of totally impossible. I was never bounced out by the danger, the way Peter Jackson’s been doing lately.
So, simply put, this is the best film of the year so far.
If you want a couple more minor spoilers, scroll down…
First of all, kudos for someone in Hollywood giving a character amnesia… and keeping them with amnesia. At no point does Letty have flashes of her former life, or her time with Dom. She just realizes that her innate morality clashes with Shaw’s, and that Dom “feels like home”. Well done, screenwriters.
Secondly, the final scene ties in (finally) the eventual death of Han in Tokyo Drift and brilliantly sets up Fast 7. Can’t… fricking… wait.