It may have been easy to dismiss the first few installments, especially after Tokyo Drift nearly sank the franchise, but with Fast & Furious and Fast Five pushing the series' domestic box-office total to nearly $700 million and over $1.5 billion worldwide, there's no denying its success. Even more astonishing is Fast & Furious 6 bucks conventional wisdom about sequels and is the best one yet.
The seeds for the story were sown in the Five's epilogue. Although proclaimed dead in F&F, Dom's girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is discovered alive and working with a criminal gang in Europe, led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). After an attack on a Russian military convoy, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) approaches Dom (Vin Diesel) for help. Dom agrees to get the whole gang back together on the condition that they receive pardons.
Shortly after arriving in London, they fail to stop a job by Shaw and his crew, in part because Letty shoots Dom. As Dom and the gang learn Shaw is stealing components to create a power-disabling device he can sell, Shaw and his gang learn Letty has a connection to Dom. She has no memory of this because instead of dying after an accident as everyone believed she escaped with amnesia. Though I can't remember the scene exactly from two movies prior, I don't believe the filmmakers left themselves an out and am almost certain they cheated and created new material to change the story.
As the gangs, who are well matched, continue to cross paths, Letty grows confused in reaction to the way each group treats her. And what helps seal the deal for her is a moment during a crazy chase sequence when Shaw is willing to sacrifice her to escape while Dom is willing to sacrifice himself to save her. I should mention that sequence involves Dom's team chasing after Shaw, who drives a tank down a motorway, smashing through and firing its gun at any car that gets in his way. It's exciting and caused a good bit of destruction, so I presumed it would end with Shaw's capture.
Thankfully, I was wrong, and the filmmakers upped the ante for a spectacular sequence that involved the good guys trying to stop Shaw and his people from leaving on a transport plane. Setting aside how long that runaway must have been, everyone gets into the act and shines. Fast Five had people looking forward to Diesel and Johnson fighting each other. This film has its most exhilarating moment when they stand side by side to thrown down against the bad guys.
This is director Justin Lin's fourth, and for now final movie, in the franchise, and he goes out on top. He uses all the elements that have worked in the franchise, over-the-top action, humor and camaraderie between the characters, and of course, good-looking cars and girls, and overcomes most of what didn't. While Fast Five was a bit bloated during its over two-hour length, FF6, which runs just as long, is paced better and doesn't drag. The movie's main flaw is the villain. Evans doesn't have much presence or charisma as Shaw, and the character comes off one-dimensional and rather forgettable.
The epilogue reveals that aspect will be improved in Fast & Furious 7 because the villain is going to be played by a well-known action star. Set during the events of Tokyo Drift, writer Chris Morgan once again alters continuity and changes the cause of Han's death. The man responsible is coming for Dom next summer.