Your auto insurance policy probably has clauses specifying whether you are covered for damage from missiles, falling objects, riots, civil war, earthquakes, hail, radioactive contamination, discharge of a nuclear weapon. But it’s time once again to check that it also addresses whether you are insured against accidentally driving onto the set of a Fast & Furious movie.
If you blundered into the shooting of Fast & Furious 6, for instance, you are almost surely walking now: If the flip-your-car-over speedsters didn’t wreck your vehicle, the giant tank surely did.
Most of the familiar faces are back for this latest bacchanalia of reckless driving, including Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto. Toretto is relaxing in fair-weather retirement, living off the big score of the previous movie in the franchise, when he is called back into service, as it were, by Luke Hobbs, the federal agent who both pursues and admires him and his band of renegades.
Hobbs is again played by Dwayne Johnson and his biceps, which get enough camera time that you expect the closing credits to include two arm wranglers, one for each. Johnson has seemingly been in every movie released in the last two years and has a reality television show, The Hero, coming on TNT. But he knows how to deploy his half-dozen expressions – the sly grin, the single-eyebrow arch – and is still a welcome sight, where other actors might by this point be overexposed.
He also doesn’t hijack this movie the way his character did in the recent G.I. Joe: Retaliation. F&F 6 is still primarily about Toretto and his buddies. It is no spoiler to say that Michelle Rodriguez, seemingly killed off in an earlier film, returns as Letty Ortiz (she’s in the opening credits), Toretto’s tough-as-nails love interest. The gimmick here is that she’s now working for the opposition, mercenaries led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Oh, and she has amnesia and doesn’t remember Toretto.
That provides just enough plot to propel the movie from car chase to car chase. The real question here is whether Justin Lin, the director of this film and three of its predecessors, can top himself. The climactic sequence of his Fast Five involved a preposterous scene in which race cars towed a giant bank vault through the streets at high speed.
Here Lin offers two tricks. The bad guys have flip cars, sleek machines whose armor-plated front ends are designed so that when they strike another vehicle, it goes spinning through the air. And in a later chase, Shaw and friends pull out a formidable tank that turns any vehicle it encounters into squished scrap metal.
These flashy smashes and a climactic sequence, in which the good guys try to prevent Shaw from taking off in an airliner by tethering their cars to it, make the movie a satisfying thrill ride, at least on a par with the earlier installments. A nice twist near the end is well disguised, and a coda hints at what’s to come in Part 7.