Something strange happened when Fast & Furious, the fourth entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, was released in 2009.
At this point the series wasn’t culturally relevant, and after two entries that were unappreciated in their time, the whole franchise was downright disregarded. Fast & Furious was seen was a late entry to a waning series starring down-on-their-luck actors who were trying to recapture some old glory. But then it made a lot of money.
Like, “more than four times its budget worldwide” kind of money.
The franchise was speaking to something. It was scratching an itch that audiences had for a big budget film that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Now that Justin Lin had an audience he decided to make the subtext as blatant as possible. He was going to take a film in a series about street racing and devote it to an Ocean’s Eleven style heist and show everyone that these movies are loaded with goddamn superheroes.
Every superhero needs a good villain though, right? It’s something a lot of comic book adaptation have trouble with. It’s something the Marvel Cinematic Universe has only really been able to do well once with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The Fast & Furious franchise was the same way they reached this era of their development. Rick Yune was a glorified distraction, Cole Hauser was under-cooked, the original DK was always a placeholder, and John Ortiz, while a great actor, isn’t the most intimidating guy in the world.
So who could they bring in that would give our heroes a challenge?
Someone hard to beat. An immovable object of sorts. I wonder…
Fast Five actually slow plays what its intentions are. The movie starts off as a seemingly standard follow-up to Fast & Furious, literally picking up where that movie left off. From there Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are fugitives.
Things slowly start getting interesting as Vince (Matt Schulze) shows up, his first appearance since The Fast and the Furious. Fast Five is already showing its deep respect and dedication to the foundation this franchise was built on. While Brian and Mia are hiding out in Rio de Janeiro they decide to earn some money while pulling an elaborate train heist. Unfortunately for them they gain the attention of Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs. That’s where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson enters the franchise. He swaggers into the movie like Tommy Lee Jones’s Sam Gerard in The Fugitive. Tailed by a group of fellow Under Armour-clad agents, Hobbs easily became the best antagonist the family has had in the whole series. It’s fun to see him Terminator his way after Dom, focused and confident, determined to get his man.
The surprising thing is that The Rock’s entrance into the franchise isn’t what makes Fast Five the best film in the series. When Dom, Brian and Mia are dealing with a Rio drug lord and Hobbs is hot on their trail it’s a fun and interesting entry into the series. Then about 40 minutes into the movie Justin Lin hits the NOS on the whole series. They decide to pull a heist, stealing all of the drug lord’s money, and in order to do so they need to assemble the family.
We get Roman (Tyrese) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Han (Sung Kang) from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Gisele (Gal Gadot), Tego (Tego Calderon) and Rico (Don Omar) from Fast & Furious, all coming together to help out the family and get rich while they’re doing it.
The filmmakers struck gold with this idea. By throwing out any concept of genre or even reality — there’s a magic bikini bottom and a physics-defying vault — they could focus on pure, unadulterated joy. All of the individual skills that make these characters special are utilized together for the common good. It’s the truest form of superheroes coming together to make a more perfect whole.
There’s a quote about Dom from the first film:
He’s got Nitrous Oxide in his blood and a gas tank for a brain.
And that could basically apply to the series at this point. If you also include the big heart that’s pumping that NOS.
By the end of it, in what can only be described as one of the most joyous moments put on film, our heroes open the stolen vault and lay eyes on their newfound fortune. It’s a complete win and it’s something that the family deserved.
Then, in a truly comic book fashion, we find out that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) isn’t dead. And we couldn’t be more excited for the next chapter in the series.
It’s hard to figure out what the greatest part of Fast & Furious 6 is. Could it be the fact that they weaponized NOS? I mean, they literally adapted an aspect of the franchise which is both iconic and only really relevant to cars and shot it up into the stratosphere. It’s like a microcosm of the entire franchise.
Or is the best part of the movie is how well it leans into its B-movie trappings? Fast & Furious 6 doesn’t waste its time caring about reality or physics or how things are supposed to be done. The main goal of the film is to get the parts where they need to be and have fun with them. Mission accomplished.
The family is recruited by Hobbs and the government to track down Deckard Shaw (Luke Evans), a heartless and pragmatic villain who is terrorizing Europe. They agree to do it for two reasons: Hobbs will make sure they’re all pardoned and able to return him and somehow Letty is alive and working for Shaw. The stakes are truly personal.
The use of the family in this outing is interesting. Gisele and Han obviously paired off in Fast Five due to their solid chemistry, but Roman was a bit of a floater. This time they pair him off with Tej and Hobbs, basically testing the waters to see who he’ll play off of the best. Because Dom is so focused on Letty this time Brian also gets a bit of a side mission. In a completely superfluous subplot he flies back to America, goes undercover in jail to talk to Braga (John Ortiz) from Fast & Furious and get the downlow on what’s up with Letty. While this is ridiculous and useless — Dom doesn’t even want to hear what Brian found out when he comes back — it gives us Paul Walker fighting in a prison riot. It’s a legitimately good fight scene and is in contention for the best action set piece of the film.
The main conflict speaks to the heart of the franchise. Just like the Justice League has the Legion of Doom the only true enemy of the family is the anti-family, ad that’s basically what Shaw has built. In a great lampshading scene, Roman points out that basically everyone on Shaw’s team is a mirror image of our core group, even throwing in a reference to 2 Fast 2 Furious by mentioning that the pretty one is Brian’s. The only difference is that Shaw couldn’t care less about his crew, using them like tools instead of loving them like a family.
Fast & Furious 6 deserves recognition for having one of the best post-credits or mid-credits scenes of any superhero film. Shaw was a commendable villain, but he was more of an idea than an actual threat. But who could possibly make a formidable opponent for the family? How about The Transporter himself, Jason Statham, whose reveal in the post-credit scene was a theatre-going experience like no other. I’ve never heard so much gasping and applause from an audience.
While I’m personally a fan of that scene, as well as the impressively staged never-ending runway set piece, my favourite scene in the film is when Letty is launched off of a tank and falling to her death. Dom basically flies in order to catch her, pulling a Superman and bringing her safely back down to Earth. Later, Letty asks Dom how he knew a car would be there to break their fall, which is perfect. Of course a car would be like an air mattress in the Fast & Furious franchise. Of course a car couldn’t hurt Dom.
Dom’s a superhero, and his power is cars.
Important Things Fast Five Adds to the Franchise
-The Rock AKA Hobbs
-Brian and Mia having a kid (the next generation of family)
-Bringing the core group of the family together… except for one piece
-Letty is alive
Important Things Fast & Furious 6 Adds to the Franchise
-Deckard Shaw and Owen Shaw
-The use of female MMA fighters
-The Bizarro Family
Fast Five: 9 Drifting Bank Vaults out of 10
Fast & Furious 6: 8 NOS Guns out of 10
Part 4: Farewell to a friend