Movin' on up!8/10
While most franchises lose their steam with each succeeding sequel, the Fast and the Furious franchise is that rare exception where its later films breathe in new life into the series. Once a franchise about car racing, "Fast Five" took an unexpected turn as a bank heist thriller in the vein of Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's 11," a welcomed change as seen by its huge box office earnings and critical success. Now, "Furious 6" is neither about car racing nor bank heists, but rather a terrorist threat with obvious inspirations from "The Dark Knight." Like "Fast Five," the results are immensely satisfying and undeniably entertaining.
The key to the franchise's upward turn in quality is due to director Justin Lin. He is a skilled action director, and many filmmakers can learn a few things or two from him: The action sequences are impressive, engaging, comprehensible, and well-shot, with practical effects to boot. There is a sense of danger, verve, and life in these scenes rarely found in other films, despite how over-the-top and ridiculous they may be; and yes, they often drift into gratify-defying territory. While I usually don't react out loudly when watching a film, this film had me gasping, jaw dropping, laughing, and applauding, sometimes all at once!
Another ingredient to the film's success is the chemistry between the cast members. We have grown to love these characters over the course of the series that one cannot help but cheer on for them. In particular, Tyrese Gibson and Ludicrous have such a terrific rapport with each other that they provide some of the film's biggest laughs and memorable one-liners. Additionally, Luke Evans is definitely a step up above the previous film's antagonist, and Gina Carano provides some great ass-kicking moments, although not much performance-wise. On another note, I want to mention how refreshing it is to see minority actors fill these roles. Certainly, the film's use of a diverse ensemble cast should be commended. As for the story, it's nothing special, but I dare you not to act surprised when several plot twists are revealed; I did so more than I would like to admit.
If there's one thing to learn about this franchise, it's that some change can be a good thing. While the later sequels do focus away from the car racing, they still featured cars, which helped retain old fans while bringing in new ones. "Furious 6" is terrific entertainment, and judging by yet another dazzling cliffhanger and the audience's reaction, "Fast & Furious 7" will be an amazing finale for the series. Unfortunately, Justin Lin won't be back around for the last installment, but someone please get this man to direct every and all upcoming action flicks.