Even before the release of the first "Fast and Furious" film back in 2001, the feedback from test audiences convinced Universal Studios that the auto street racing movie had franchise potential. It's a game plan that's proved spectacularly successful, with the sixth film in the series now rolling into theaters.
"Fast and Furious 6" features plenty of returning faces, from such cast members as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson, to behind-the-scenes talent like director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan, who are doing their fourth film in the series.
The story begins with the team enjoying the fruits of their big Rio payday from "Fast Five." Ex-FBI agent Brian O'Connor (Walker) and girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) are new parents, while the others are either flying around in private jets, or contemplating futures that don't involve racing cars in any kind of schemes. As alpha male Dominic (Vin Diesel) tells Brian, "Our old life is done."
Yeah, right. That last for about five minutes up until federal agent Luke Hobbs (the returning Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) receives some shocking info. He's pursuing a former British special forces operative (Luke Evans) who leads a group of specialists in "vehicular warfare," whatever that is. A surveillance photo shows that the bad guys have been joined by Dominic's girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who was presumed to have been killed in the fourth film. That picture convinces the entire team to regroup and head to London to find out what happened to their girl.
The budgets on these movies keep getting bigger, and with the mammoth success of "Fast Five," whatever the filmmakers wanted, they seemed to have gotten. A military tank for a huge highway chase scene? Done. A wild car pursuit through central London? No problem. A giant Russian cargo plane for the big climax? Just rev up the engines.
The money is certainly up on the screen with these spectacular action sequences, although a few push WAY past the limits of believability. Examples: a jumping aerial catch involving two people that even Cirque du Soleil wouldn't attempt, and another scene featuring an airplane racing down a runway that must be 50 miles long because it never seems to end.
Also in the plus column are some very impressive fight sequences, two of which feature the returning Rodriguez versus a federal agent played by former "American Gladiator" and mixed martial arts competitor Gina Carano. They feature some of the best fight choreography in recent memory.
Where "Fast and Furious 6" is lacking is in the story. Other than Gibson providing some great comic relief, and a couple of nice scenes between Rodriguez and Diesel, the writing is very lackluster. One particularly awkward scene involves Hobbs and another team member giving payback to a snotty car salesman by demanding that he strip and give them his clothes as part of the purchase. It's just painful to watch. There's a number of big dramatic lines that I'm sure the screenwriter thought would be impressive but succeed only in generating unintentional laughter from the audience.
As for the question of whether there will be at least one more movie in this series, that's answered with a definite "yes" even before the end credits begin to roll. Hopefully, though, they'll spend a little more time on the script and get a good story to go along with the first-rate action sequences.