There are those who expected the The Fast & Furious franchise to run out of gas after the first entry, which was about an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of street racers who hijack trucks full of cargo… without making them pull over. The import-tuner crowd it appealed to is an easy target. I was never a fan. I drove a 5-liter Mustang when the first movie came out, and had plenty of experience with guys in Civics with coffee-can mufflers wanting to street race.
As over the top heist capers, however, they deserve another look. And when #6 promised a highway battle between a Dodge Daytona, a Mustang Mach1, and a tank, how could I say no?
I love car movies. What have we had that can be called a good car chase movie since Ronin? (Don't say Death Race.) Gone in 60 Seconds is one of the worst remakes in existence. The new Italian Job wasn't bad, but it's more of a Mini Cooper commercial, and the chases are minor. And the Transporter films don't acknowledge the laws of physics, so I'll take what I can get. FF6 was a great car chase movie, and I say that after watching Vanishing Point (the original existential crime and car chase flick against which all others are judged).
The basic plot? Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang are sitting pretty on the spoils from Fast Five (I still think they should have named that one Grandmaster Fast and the Furious Five). Brian O'Connor, the undercover cop turned outlaw, has settled down with his wife and newborn son in a country without extradition. But as we know, such rests are short-lived for action heroes.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his partner, MMA fighter Gina Carano, play the cops who show up to make the offer they can't refuse. Help track down a team of racers who are stealing parts to a doom satellite that can wipe out all communications country-wide, and they will receive full pardons. And the clincher is … an old friend of theirs is part of the crew. Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez), thought to be dead, is operating as part of the surgical strike team.
The baddies are run by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) an ex-SAS “mobile unit” commando who strikes London's Interpol HQ with crazy modified F1 race cars and tons of high explosives, while Toretto, Brian and crew chase in BMW M5s. Shaw not only has harpoon guns, he also has little flashy magnetic grenades that can take over your car and make you crash! Which is much cooler and 3000x as expensive as a frag grenade that would do the same thing! But who cares, it was cool seeing a BMW flip into a building's wall. It is as destructive as you can imagine, and ends with Toretto banging heads with his old flame Lettie… who doesn't recognize him.
DUN DUNT DUN! Amnesia! Where would pulpy serials like this—and that's what this series is—be without amnesia, fickle loyalties, and shady motivations? Because the Toretto crew believes in FAMILY with a capital F (and A, etc.) they have to take down Shaw and rescue Lettie so they can smack some sense into her. And to do it, they need old-school vehicles that don't have computers, because you know, those super hacker grenades. Oh no, where can we get American muscle cars in London?
At a high roller auction, of course. A Dodge Daytona for Mopar evangelist Toretto. A sweet Mustang for Roman, a rally-car Escort Cosworth, a Lucra LC470, a Jensen interceptor. I like Mustangs as much as the next Joey bag-o-donuts, but the Cobra originated in jolly old England, baby. Who cares? They steal a bunch of cool cars and get in an insane chase with a military convoy atop a twin-span concrete bridge about a thousand feet high over a forested death chasm. And where there's a military convoy, there are TANKS.
Okay, one tank. One tank is enough, unless you're attacking the Gothic Line. There hasn't been as great a tank chase since Goldeneye (which oddly enough, also involved a super-satellite). Here, the tank is manned by psycho bad guy Shaw, who has no compunctions about driving into head-on traffic and flattening innocent people, or blasting bridge supports with artillery. It's an excellent action sequence, and is only barely topped by the finale…where they take on the largest cargo plane ever built…the Antonov An-225 Mriya.
Like that monster plane, this movie is big and loud and silly and fun. It will never be accused of being smart. However, it is no less ridiculous in plot than numerous Hollywood thrillers and action films. They know when to stop talking and start blowing things up. And they do that a lot. As long as we leave out Frankenheimer's car chases, it has the best car action scenes of the last 15 years.
What else does it have going for it? The fight scenes between Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez were excellent, as expected with Carano's fighting pedigree. They managed to find someone bigger than The Rock, for an epic WWF throwdown as well. I went in with low expectations and was impressed. If you go in looking to be disappointed, I imagine you will be. But for pure pulpy automobile thrills, look to Fast & the Furious's “Doc Savage” style team of outlaws on wheels.
Thomas Pluck is the Bullet Award-winning writer of the Denny the Dent stories, as well as hard-boiled and humorous fiction that has appeared in The Utne Reader, Beat to a Pulp, Spinetingler, McSweeney’s, Crimespree Magazine and many others. He is also the editor of the Lost Children anthologies to benefit PROTECT and Children 1st. He is working on his first novel, entitled Bury the Hatchet.