Director: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Production Company: Original Film
Studio: Universal Pictures
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, and Lucas Black
Running Time: 137 min.
Tagline: One last ride
Plotline: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against the team that crippled his brother Owen (villain in the previous movie). In order to track Deckard down Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is propositioned by a shady operative (Kurt Russell) to rescue a hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) who developed a powerful spying device from a mysterious dealer named Jakande (Djimon Honsou).
Review: How the hell did the Saw guy get this directing job? His last foray into the action genre was 2007’s mediocre Death Sentence. Like most people in Hollywood I imagine he met someone, my guess while working on his first major studio effort The Conjuring. Regardless, as the first major shakeup behind the camera in almost a decade his style brings a kinetic energy to the mix that is sometimes unbalanced compared to previous series director Justin Lin’s schooled stylings. This film also carries dramatic baggage and challenges within filming around the death of Paul Walker.
Starring in 5 of the 6 previous films Walker served as one of the two franchise’s lifelines, the other being Vin Diesel who after the third film gained producing rights for the franchise along with Riddick after waiving his cameo fee. If you asked me, around the fifth film the franchise shifts away from Walker’s character of Brian O’Connor, more towards Diesel’s Dominic Toretto which may have been a slight source of tension on the sixth film, as the villains start focusing directly on the latter’s character. The main villain in this installment Jason Statham fits sharply into the franchise with a great opening sequence and an excellently choreographed fight scene with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In another slightly reduced role, the too charismatic Johnson plays Hobbs, out of action for most of the movie since sticking around from Fast Five as an antagonist turned ally. Initially written out after the accelerated production schedule made him unavailable, here he comes in at the beginning for the film’s finest sequence only to return at the end. I was a bit worried since Johnson recently stated this might be his last Fast film but those plans were likely sidelined after the death of Walker. Noted by producers each film contains at least one dramatic entrance or exit from the ensemble.
Speaking of which, the supporting cast does their thing with greater fluidity as the franchise continues to adapt. Noted tekkie Tej (Ludacris) gets in time for a quick fight while Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pierce remains pretty much the audience surrogate. In a surprisingly effective scene the character admits he’s scared of the crazy shit they’re doing and tries to back out of a major stunt after hilariously taking charge and having to live with the consequences. What is noted as the first time there is interpersonal conflict within this family unit, peaking my interest as Roman is often the only one often to point out how ridiculous all of this is. Adding emotional depth is something I’d like to see in the series as it runs out of places to go and threats and cracks such as this to the family dynamic are often the best way to go. Perhaps next they will introduce a love triangle between Tyrese and Ludacris and new addition Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).
It’s funny to realize that their are two women who have also been in this franchise from the start as Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster have appeared in 5 of the 7 films, there is hardly as much dimension to these characters as their are their on-screen counterparts Walker and Diesel. In fact I’m growing kind of sick of the way this franchise treats women, what started out as a teenage drive-in exploitation throwback has evolved into an action movie with blatantly gratuitous pornous shots of women that only feels more out of place as the franchise is supposed to mature (and the actors grow older). I hope to combat these growing issues they bring these female characters up to speed with the rest of the cast (Ramsey included). I hope for one as they retire Brian O’Conner they find a way to keep around Mia Toretto as she deserves something for sticking around so long. Letty had her resurrection and her improbable fight sequence against Ronda Rousey, give the on-screen wife of a dead man something to work with.
Going from Fast & Furious 6, I have no issue with the franchise hurtling further over the top, I just wish its CGI were up to snuff. Getting Walker’s face right is a feat, as is his truly tearful final goodbye that is genuinely touching and surprising, complete with an overhead shot of cars diverging down a road that really makes a dramatic impact greater than any previous films have had. The issue I have is with the weightless and carttoonish CGI cars during its skyscraper stunt. I’m willing to believe Toretto is strong enough to lift the front end of a 5 ton vehicle, but when that vehicle looks weightless slowing down and jumping through a 100+ story skyscraper, the feat is about as impressive as me doing the same thing with hot wheels. Be forewarned, family.
- Brian and Dom race each other three times in the series; in The Fast and the Furious (2001), Fast & Furious (2009), and Fast Five (2011). Dom wins the first two times. In a third race with Han, Roman, and Tej, Brian excitedly claims victory although according to Roman, Dom slowed down and let him win. Dom always drives American muscle versus Brian’s imported sports taste.
- Paul Walker despite critics noting as an unlikely match up against Tony Jaa; was a brown belt in brazillian jiu-jitsu and awarded black belt status posthumously. This coupled with his character’s background as a cop and later FBI agent, as well as main series protagonist makes him at least as believable foil as New York bouncer Vin Diesel versus considerably larger professional wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in Fast Five.