Well, Game of Thrones took the week off, something I didn’t know was going to happen. So you can imagine my surprise as I sat down with a bowl of popcorn in my lap, eagerly awaiting to see the S hit the F, and another movie came on in its place. No matter, because I had just gotten back from seeing the new Fast and the Furious movie a couple of hours before.
In the pantheon of motion picture properties that can be considered having made an impact on pop culture, The Fast and The Furious seems like a bit of an odd choice to make it to six theatrical releases, with much of the original cast intact. But unlike some of those franchises (Star Wars and Indiana Jones spring to mind), the Fast and Furious movies only really found their footing as they’ve gotten older, rather than spending their best ideas at the outset.
The Fast franchise is still far from being a classic. Fortunately, the people making the movie know this. They’re just there, making an entertaining movie and having a blast doing it. The film boasts a cast that knows the characters they are playing, and they do the job passably. I’m sure hardcore fans of the series will find plenty to love here, as even I, only a casual viewer (this is the first one I’ve actually taken the time to see in a theatre, and only based on a combination of for want of something to do and because I liked Fast 5 so much) couldn’t help but smile a bit whenever this longstanding group of characters interacted with each other.
There is a theme in this film (gasp!) about the sense of family Dom Torreto’s (Vin Diesel) crew fosters versus the no nonsense, dog eat dog philosophy of precision the film’s villain, Shaw (Luke Evans), expounds. It’s all very hamfisted and expository, with Toretto and Shaw actually having a face to face where they spell it all out for the viewer, but the fact that the story attempts to be about anything at all is kind of refreshing.
Late in the movie, during a high speed chase on a highway in Spain, Dom actually shows a passing concern for the well being of innocent lives at stake around him. It’s a tiny thing, but when you consider, say, Batman running over cop cars in Batman Begins, or James Bond rampaging through the streets of St. Petersburg in a tank while adjusting his tie in GoldenEye, you realize that collateral damage often gets hand waved off in service of the action set piece. It’s nice to see a character acknowledge that they might be royally screwing up somebody’s day.
Speaking of action set pieces, the movie delivers in spades. They’re big, they’re loud, and they’re completely insane, but they’re fun, and for the most part you can tell what’s going on. The hand to hand fights are filmed a little too tight for my tastes, especially considering the fact that they have Gina Carano on tap, an MMA fighter who shouldn’t need close shots and quick cuts to cover up a stunt double or lack of ability. Even so, her subway fight with Michelle Rodriguez’ character Letty is still appropriately bad ass and brutal.
The action in the first half of the movie is more to my liking, as it looks to be done largely on set with actual stunt drivers and any CG serving only to augment the carnage on screen. As the film progresses and the situations get more outlandish, however, the need for CG grows and it is apparent. It mostly works however, these scenes betrayed more by their insane nature than any technical hiccups on behalf of the VFX team.
The movie is a bit long, as well. Things seem to hit a pretty good climax about an hour and a half in, until the villain reveals his final trump card and we’re given yet another twenty minute action set piece involving a cargo plane. The scene is exciting and very well done, but part of me wishes they had stopped thirty minutes earlier and saved something for the inevitable sequel, which gets teased just before the credits roll.
A couple of little things I liked:
-Dwayne Johnson’s character Hobbs getting compared to different Avengers characters at different points in the film (Hulk, Captain America, and ‘Samoan Thor’)
-The Han/ Gisele relationship is kind of cute without being overbearing, and works well enough for events at the end of the movie to have an impact.
A couple little things I didn’t:
-The reveal of a certain character’s true colors seemed a bit last minute “we need a shocker beat here”.
-Paul Walker’s character’s side story about getting arrested in order to get some ultimately pointless information from a character that I’m guessing was the villain in the fourth movie that I barely remember. Cutting this sequence could have saved some running time. Also, of the entire cast, Paul Walker seems to be the least into it, which is understandable as he’s been in all but one of them.
Final Thoughts: As far as summer blockbusters go, you can do a lot worse. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely check it out (who am I kidding…if you’re a fan of the series, you probably already have). If you’ve ever seen one of these movies and liked it, check it out. If you haven’t seen any of them but are curious, rent Fast Five, and if you like it, check out Fast 6. If you hated Fast Five, you’ve probably made your mind up about the series already, so don’t bother. Everyone else, give it a rent, or go see a matinee showing in a couple of weeks after the crowds have gone down.