The sixth installment in Universal’s blockbuster car-racing franchise isn’t looking to win any Oscars, and that’s a good thing. Though it may lack high-caliber acting and a flawless plot, Fast & Furious 6 has more to offer movie watchers simply in search of a good time than any other action extravaganza this year.
For a series to still feel fresh, exciting and innovative six movies in is a rare thing indeed, but Fast & Furious 6 exists not only as an assurance that there’s plenty of fuel left in this franchise’s tank, but also as definitive proof that big-budget, high-octane, low-IQ tentpoles can be an art form unto themselves. By preserving the series’ adrenaline-junkie heart and infusing it with some well-conceived action-adventure adornments, Fast & Furious 6 takes the series in a promising new direction while never neglecting the car-porn pleasures that put it on the map. It’s a total blast.
In Fast & Furious 6, following a spectacular Rio heist in the previous film, the crew of professional car thief Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is laying low and enjoying newfound riches. When a team of highly-trained mercenaries led by ex-soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) sets its sights on a powerful military device, DSS Agent Luke Hobbes recruits Dom’s crew to take them down. For Dom, the mission is more personal, as his former lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), long thought dead, has been identified as Shaw’s second-in-command. The ensuing all-out war tests the boundaries of how far the crew is willing to go to bring back one of its own.
In reviewing the Blu-Ray for this film, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the painful reality of watching series star Paul Walker, who died last month in a fiery car crash, zip around in fast cars and utter once awesome, now eerie catchphrases like, “Ride or die.” The uncomfortable truth behind Fast & Furious 6 is that it’s just a movie, and the film’s seemingly-untouchable actors are just as mortal as the rest of us. Walker truly loved cars, and it shows in his enthusiastic performance, but it still hurts to know that the same stunts made to look so appealing in Fast & Furious 6 get gearheads like Walker killed in real life. As it stands, the film can be seen as a fitting tribute to an actor who built his career on fantastical, fast-paced thrills.
If you take Fast & Furious 6 on its own terms (though whether such a viewpoint is still possible in light of Walker’s death, I do not know), it’s escapism of the highest caliber. The action sequences are meticulously detailed and brilliantly shot, courtesy of series mainstay Justin Lin, and the story pops with a deftly handled blend of warm humor and explosive action. As far as this franchise goes, Fast & Furious 6 succeeds at putting all the parts into place in a way that none of the other films quite managed.
All of the actors turn in strong performances, particularly Diesel as Dom, who’s struggling to protect the family members he has left while reaching for the one that got away, and Evans as Shaw, a nastily efficient and intimidating antagonist. Charisma is never in short supply, as Walker, Diesel, Rodriguez and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all step up their game to emerge as action heroes in their own right. Meanwhile, Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges provide ample comic relief, and MMA fighter Gina Carano stands out as the badass DSS Agent Riley Hicks.
Fast & Furious 6 is all about the action sequences, and it delivers some real doozies. A bare-knuckle, subway-set brawl between Letty and Hicks is one of the most consistently exhilarating, bracingly realistic fights I’ve ever seen, while a high-speed pursuit in London is both tightly shot and impressively innovative. Lin kicks it up a notch in the film’s second half, nailing two truly ambitious scenes. Watching a tank crush cars and reduce bridges to rubble along a Spanish highway more than satisfied the destructive kid inside of me, while the film’s climax is an immersive battle set aboard a plane taking off from the longest runway in cinematic history. The best of the bunch, the finale is a breakneck thrill-ride both incredible to witness and certifiably insane, as well as a genuine masterpiece of big-budget action cinema.
Watching Fast & Furious 6 in the wake of Walker’s untimely death may be upsetting for some viewers, but it succeeds as a well-crafted and propulsive ode to fast cars and fast living, the same death-defying lifestyle that Walker so idolized. Simultaneously ridiculous and breathtaking, Fast & Furious 6 should be mandatory viewing for all action fans. Just keep your intellectual half away from it.
As far as picture quality is concerned, Universal’s Blu-Ray release is tops, mixing sharp details and accurate colors, particularly during the many eye-popping action sequences. No complaints there. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track is even more impressive, blending the film’s rapid-fire dialogue, deafening soundtrack and diverse background sound effects with finesse. The professionalism of the audio track is particularly noticeable during the largest action sequences, like the tank battle and the runway climax, when crystal-clear rendering never allows dialogue to get lost under pounding music or a cacophony of sound effects.
The Blu-Ray offers both a theatrical version of the film and an extended cut, though only keen-eyed super-fans will be able to spot differences between the two. There’s less than a minute of extra footage in the extended cut, mostly involving different shots during fight scenes. I only noticed one major difference, during the final moments of the first Letty/Hicks fight, and all it amounts to is one extra stranglehold. The other additions are just more brutal takes on action sequences, meaning that a larger amount of punches are thrown on-screen. Finally, there’s a more R-rated version of the scene where Brian O’Conner (Walker) tortures a drug lord for information. It’s savage enough that one can easily see why Universal nixed sending the extended version to theaters. In the end, it is a little saddening that the only differences between theatrical and extended are minuscule and essentially irrelevant.
Fast & Furious 6 comes tricked out with a terrific surplus of bonus features, including:
- HD Digital Copy – compatible with both iTunes and UltraViolet
- Audio Commentary with Justin Lin
- Take Control
- The Making of Fast & Furious 6
- Planes, Tanks and Automobiles
- It’s All About the Cars
- Hand to Hand Fury
- Fast & Furious 7 First Look
- Deleted Scenes
Lin is an exceptionally thorough and thoughtful voice on the feature-length commentary, which is highly recommended for fans of the film. The director discusses everything you could imagine about Fast & Furious 6, from casting to special effects to filming difficulties, and does so in such an animated manner that you can’t help but share his obvious enthusiasm. One piece of information I found particularly interesting: Lin wanted to call the film Furious 6, to signify the end of the in-series trilogy that began with Fast & Furious and continued in Fast Five. That’s actually what the title card reads in the finished product. Marketing considerations led to the film being marketed as Fast & Furious 6, but it makes me extremely happy that Lin felt enough dedication to wrapping up his mini-trilogy (which was intended to move the series from its street-racing origins into full-on action-adventure territory) that he went with Furious 6.
“Take Control” is a series of interviews with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Justin Lin and Michelle Rodriguez that breaks down a handful of specific scenes from the film. Walker’s obvious zeal regarding the cars used in Fast & Furious 6 is particularly fun to watch, though all of the interviews offer some interesting information about the film. At 19 minutes, the feature doesn’t wear out its welcome but provides some valuable insight into specific scenes.
For hard-core fans, “The Making of Fast & Furious 6” provides a detailed look into production on the sequel. It’s actually four separate segments that come together to create a mini-documentary about the making of the film. The entire affair clocks in at almost half an hour, so series devotees will have their hands full, but all of the information included in the feature is intriguing and relevant.
“Planes, Tanks and Automobiles” runs 24 minutes and focuses on four of the film’s most elaborate action sequences. We’ve got four separate segments, called “The London Chase,” “The Convoy Attack,” “The Antonov Takedown,” and “Dom and Letty Race Again.” I’d highly recommend this special feature, which really delves into how the cast and crew approaches dangerous stunts and did their best to make difficult sequences both feasible and entertaining to watch.
For car enthusiasts, “It’s All About the Cars” is the best bonus feature in the pack. Made up of three separate segments (“On the Set with Vin,” “Gearhead’s Delight” and “The Flip Car”), the extra clocks in at a brief fifteen minutes while providing some much-appreciated close-ups on the diverse range of cars used in the film. “The Flip Car” is my favorite clip, as it examines Fast & Furious 6‘s coolest addition to the series. Shaw’s vehicle of choice – a lean, mean machine capable of flipping other cars into the air – is pure genius on the part of vehicle designer Dennis McCarthy.
Certainly the most wince-inducing feature to watch, “Hand to Hand Fury” talks about the intensive training that members of the cast underwent in order to create realistic fight sequences for Fast & Furious 6. I feel the worst for Michelle Rodriguez here, as she faced off against professional MMA champion Gina Carano twice during the film and has the actual bruises to prove it. At just ten minutes, it’s short and sweet.
In light of Paul Walker’s death, the first look at Fast & Furious 7 takes on a deeply upsetting, new significance. The characters are seen at a funeral for one of their own, where Roman (Gibson) says to Brian (Walker), “Promise me, Brian, no more funerals.” Brian replied, “Just one more,” as Dom (Diesel) walks towards a car belonging to the film’s antagonist, which is lurking outside the cemetery. Sad stuff.
The deleted scenes are the most disappointing special features. As with the extended versus theatrical cuts, the deleted scenes are completely pointless, offering nothing new to the story or characters. Lin runs a tight ship and, while that’s certainly a good thing for Fast & Furious 6 as a film, the deleted scenes really should have been left off the disc. Only three small scenes are included. One is a brief exchange between Johnson’s Hobbes and Carano’s Hicks outside of the London CCTV HQ. In the next, romantically-involved crew members Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) rehash a conversation about moving to Tokyo that was featured earlier in the film. Finally, a prison guard swears at an empty cell. No, seriously, that’s it.
The Fast & Furious 6 Blu-Ray is an impressively assembled set, featuring top-of-the-line picture quality and a stellar audio track. The bonus features are almost all hits, though the extended cut offers almost no extra footage, and the deleted scenes are equally pointless. Regardless, picking up the Blu-Ray is highly recommended, both because the film is terrific and because some proceeds from sales of the Blu-Ray will benefit Walker’s charity Reach Out Worldwide. You can feel good about your purchase and check out one of the most agreeable popcorn pleasures in years – that’s a real win-win.
Fast & Furious 6 is the most wildly entertaining thrill-ride of the 2013 summer season, as well as the best installment in this franchise thus far.