Since the 2001 release of the original The Fast and the Furious, the series has followed a highly unusual commercial trajectory. A huge hit right out of the gate, its first two sequels delivered proportionately diminished returns (particularly the third, Tokyo Drift). But then something strange happened. The fourth film, 2009’s Fast & Furious, outgrossed all its predecessors. In 2011, Fast Five became the first in the series to top $200 million domestically (receiving markedly better reviews, to boot). Which brings us to the sixth one, which repeated the feat to become the highest-grossing Fast film yet (and third-highest grossing film worldwide so far this year).
If it’s car chases and incredible stunts you’re after, Furious 6 more than delivers the goods. The plot is as mechanical as the cars. As teased via a file photo in the previous film, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) is not—as previously presumed—dead. Dominic (series mainstay Vin Diesel), Letty’s former boyfriend, is presented this information by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, returning from the previous installment). Hobbs needs help taking down a former British special ops soldier, bad guy Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who has been wreaking havoc, including the obliteration of a Russian military fleet. The amnesia-stricken Letty is working with Shaw. Dominic and his partners-in-crime have taken up residence in various places around the world, enjoying retirement. Now they’re called back into action as Dominic agrees to Hobbs’ orders, hoping to rescue Letty.
With the gang—including Brian (Walker), his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster), his buddy Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges), and Han (Sung Kang)—reassembled, all motivated by Hobbs’ promise to grant them all full, unconditional pardons from their past crimes, the fireworks start. Furious 6 is lightweight, undemanding fun. It’s no classic of the genre, but as far as big budget escapism goes, it’s not hard to see why it has raked in so much cash. Every so often the action pauses for a character moment, like Roman and Han’s amusing exchange about the importance of bestowing bling upon your loved one. These moments don’t really add much to what we already know about these guys, serving more as a chance for the audience to catch their breath following the last series of crashes and explosions. The formula has served the producers well and the cast works smoothly together (without any one of them delivering a legitimately memorable performance).
With plenty of fine detail, exceptional clarity, and nary a technical glitch, Furious 6 offers an awesome high-definition viewing experience. Stephen F. Windon’s 35mm cinematography looks superb, as well it should considering the film’s reported $160 million budget. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix packs more power than I even expected, with the low-end effects stealing the show. The deep hum of engines and thundering impacts of various crashes register with window-shaking rumbling. Lucas Vidal’s score is nicely distributed throughout the spectrum. Only one caveat, and it’s a minor one—to my ears, some of the quieter dialogue could’ve used a touch more resonance. But overall, this is a splendid Blu-ray presentation.
Don’t get your hopes up over the “extended cut” included on this disc, as it’s literally less than one minute longer. Much more impressive is director Justin Lin’s technical-oriented commentary track. Moving into the featurettes, “Take Control” suggests a feature-length, picture-in-picture affair (based on Vin Diesel’s introduction), but it actually only runs about 20 minutes. It’s a cool behind-the-scenes look that stands as the best piece here. Several featurettes each are listed under various sub-headers, “The Making of Fast & Furious 6,” “Planes, Tanks, and Automobiles,” and “It’s All About the Cars.” These are glossy, EPK-style bits (and could’ve used a ‘play all’ function!), but at over an hour total, they should keep fans happy. There’s a quick “First Look” at Fast 7 and a couple of truly inconsequential deleted scenes. All told, it’s an appropriately flashy package of extras.
The most striking aspect of Fast & Furious 6 is the off-handed treatment of the death of a major character. It occurs in a mid-credits tag, simultaneously introducing us to the primary villain of the upcoming seventh installment. For a film that goes to great pains to emphasize the “family” element of its motley crew of comrades, it’s a rather callous way to dispose of someone important to the franchise (even if it does tie in with an earlier film in the series). That aside, Fast 6 is forgettable but tasty fast-food filmmaking.
For more information about Paul Walker’s charitable organization, Reach Out Worldwide, visit the official website.