Film Review: Fast & Furious 6

Car-racing gang is back to battle a super-villain who wants to unleash a "tech bomb" in this super-sized 'Fast & Furious' entry.

Bling rules in Fast & Furious 6, the sixth entry in the Universal franchise. Long, loud and expensive, the film delivers what series fans want, although not quite as quickly or cleverly as before. Solid box-office returns will justify the studio's decision to open on Memorial Day weekend.

Some old friends are back, including Fast Five's Dwayne Johnson as federal agent Hobbs, who enlists Dom Toretto's (Vin Diesel) help in breaking up a gang led by criminal mastermind Oscar Shaw (Luke Evans). The incentive: Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom's presumed-dead girlfriend, now seems to be helping Shaw.

Dom reunites his gang to rescue Letty and secure pardons for his friends. Hobbs and his new partner Riley (mixed-martial-arts fighter Gina Carano) outfit Dom, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) with state-of-the-art cars and weapons.

With so many characters to introduce, and so much plot to explain, it takes a while for Fast & Furious 6 (just Furious 6 on screen) to get up to speed. When it does, viewers won't be disappointed. Director Justin Lin marshals helicopters, special effects and of course outstanding stunt drivers for a chase through downtown London at night. It's followed by several more physical encounters that showcase Carano and Rodriguez in particular.

When the plot switches to Spain, Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan shift to a higher gear during a thunderous freeway chase that has a high-speed tank demolishing passenger cars, blowing up bridges and targeting Dom's crew. While the heroics go a bit over the top (how many times can Hobbs or Dom leap off a speeding car and live?), the sequence overall is shot and edited for maximum impact.

It's followed by an even more incredible fight between jeeps, cars and a giant cargo plane hurtling down a runway. Jaw-dropping in terms of speed, momentum and complexity, it's also about as plausible as one of those 1970s James Bond spectacles. Fans will be overwhelmed, even though some of the characters get shortchanged in the pandemonium (notably, Brian's wife and Dom's sister Mia, played by Jordana Brewster).

Fast & Furious 6 ties up a lot of the franchise's loose ends, even sending Brian back to Los Angeles to deal with drug lord Braga (John Ortiz), last seen in the fourth entry, Fast & Furious. The "surprise" ending sends Han to Tokyo, presumably to correct a chronological skip brought about in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and to introduce the next star to enter the franchise.

For now it appears that this is Lin's last outing in the series, which may be why Fast & Furious 6 sometimes feels like a victory lap. (James Wan of Saw fame is slated to direct Fast & Furious 7.) Lin leans on family as a theme, using emotions between Dom and Letty to keep viewers engaged in what is often a silly storyline. He's helped a lot by Michelle Rodriguez, whose performance lifts the entire film to a more realistic level.

The Fast and Furious franchise has never lost its blue-collar base, even as the films shift into the kind of globetrotting adventures found in comic books. Fast & Furious 6 may be Lin's coda, but the series has plenty of life left.