If Steve McQueen were alive today it would be interesting to hear what he thinks of the evolution of fast cars in movies. The chase scene on the streets of San Francisco in the classic McQueen-starrer “Bullitt” has been considered the breakthrough in auto stunt driving that has led to marvelously choreographed high-speed maneuvering displayed in so many movies now, contributing to the success of the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
The adventures of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) began with “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001, a Southern California-based caper that pitted O’Connor as an undercover cop against Toretto, a street-wise guy with strong family ties but a little wide of the law. The series had humble beginnings with a fairly low budget of $38 million, while taking a chance on its stars. Diesel at the time had been seen in his first starring vehicle, portraying Riddick in “Pitch Black,” and Walker was known only for his role in “Varsity Blues.” But things clicked between these two and a money-maker was born.
Now, several movies later, Dom and Brian are family, with O’Connor in a relationship with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and a child on the way. As “Fast Five” wound down, Dom and Brian and their group had taken down a kingpin in Brazil andstolen $100 million from him. However, they all are fugitives in the U.S., with dedicated-to-duty U.S. agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) promising to haul the gang in if they ever step foot on U.S. soil again. But in a brief teaser at the end of part five, Hobbs is told of a case of an international hijacking ring in which one of the members is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s presumed dead girlfriend.
So part six begins. When this hijacking group takes down a military convoy, Hobbs is back on the job. But even with all the resources of the U.S. government at hand, Hobbs concludes his best move is to recruit Dom and his group, plus he has the leverage of presenting to Dom the possibility of getting Letty back. After all, why would Dom, Brian, et al, want to get involved now that they are comfortably well off financially?
The script by Chris Morgan, who wrote the “Tokyo Drift” movie of this series, sets aside any dramatic tension — such as Mia, even with a baby boy in tow, willing to allow Brian to risk his life again, and Elena (Elsa Pataky), Dom’s current girlfriend, honorably ready to step aside should Letty and Dom reunite.
After all, we’re here to see Dom, Brian, Hobbs and the rest do death-defying things with speedy cars to vanquish another bad guy. Dom summons his team: Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludicris), and Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot).
They are going up against Shaw (Luke Evans), another cookie-cutter villain, molded by some government to be a killing machine but who has gone rogue, and surrounded by a mercenary payroll, has formed a formidable group capable of making any country’s security forces look like amateurs. Shaw and company are in pursuit of some software that can wreak havoc and would draw billions of dollars in open-market bids from some buyer intent on nasty government-crumbling tactics.
Morgan’s script allows for the usual humorous exchanges between Roman and Tej, a soft-spoken but tense macho-posturing confrontation between Dom and Shaw, and the volatile mix of Hobbs’ by-the-book procedures and efficient if sometimes sloppy operations of Dom’s group.
The action sequences are expertly handled by director Justin Lin, back for his fourth turn in the “F&F” series — lots of cars get crunched; there is also a tank and a cargo plane that need to be taken down. The face-to-face punch-and-kick battles are there also. Hobbs’ latest recruit is Riley (Gina Carano) and she has two violent encounters with Letty — it’s a great match-up between two actresses who have proven themselves as expert battlers in previous movies (Rodriguez in “Girlfight” in 2000 and Carano in “Haywire” in 2011). Place your bets.
The excitement factor in the final action sequences has been ratcheted up and one would think “”F&F” has played itself out. But nope. Even as Dom and company settle back down to some normalcy, the credits roll and here comes another teaser. A real hook, given the person who appears in this mini-preview as the next foe. “Fast & Furious” is not going away yet.