Anyone writing a case history of Hollywood would have to single out the Fast and the Furious franchise as an oddity. How did a middle ranking series featuring muscle and muscle-cars, a sort of Top Gear for those who drink protein shakes and live in the gym, including one entry that doesn’t feature any of the original cast, breakthrough to blockbuster status on movie number five? Most franchises don’t last that long and if they do they certainly don’t double their grosses at the very moment they should be collapsing, Bluesmobile style.
Yet Justin Lin’s series did just that by shifting the emphasis from racing to the more lucrative heist genre, adding star power in the form of The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock, and upping the action content. Kudos to Universal, they saw the mega-hit potential when no one else could, but now they’ve driven into the big league can Vin Diesel’s crew keep delivering the goods? After all, people are watching now.
Well if the yardstick for this kind of movie is whether it delivers simple, meat and potatoes thrills, the movie’s engine perfectly tuned to supply both the male and female parts of the audience with pleasing body shapes and equal opportunities violence and peril, the answer has to be yes. Fast and the Furious 6 is annoyingly entertaining; annoying because you’re inclined to believe that a set up featuring a former S.A.S operative hoping to procure something called a “Nightshade Device”, who can only be stopped by a team of stunt drivers, should die a quick death, but Lin knows full well that his audience couldn’t care less about the details and has come to hear the roar of engines, and he ensures there’s a hell of a lot – a chase that does the impossible and whizzes through London at speed, an absurd setpiece on a Spanish motorway featuring an army tank and an attempt to stop a plane taking off from the world’s longest runway using cars and grappling hooks – each of which goes on for hours. Does it matter? No. The editing’s ferocious, the staging outrageous and it’s paced to perfection.
Lin’s love affair with the masturbating cameraman and cokehead editor would sink lesser pictures but fortunately there’s something like a foundation to this one; simple, likable characters. If Vin Diesel sounds like his battery’s running down and The Rock gets lines like, “I want to come crashing down on them like the walls of Jericho”, as well as a surfeit of animal metaphors, no matter; writer Chris Morgan keeps it breezy and good natured while moralising about the importance of family; an irritating old trope that nevertheless works well in this context as it’s the only plausible way of binding together such a disparate set of characters.
In light of this mystifyingly solid instalment, there’s no reason not to anticipate Fast and the Furious 7 with a certain amount of boyhood glee, not least because the post-credits sequence introduces a new character who’ll have fans of a certain British meathead salivating. He’s one of many Britons who turn up in this London based sequel. Another is the man from the Sky Christmas and Halifax Radio ads. Like I said, it’s an oddity.