Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 5.28.59 PMDirector: Justin Lin

Writer: Chris Morgan

Toretto’s Crew:

Vin Diesel: Dominic Toretto     Paul Walker: Brian O’Conner

Jordana Brewster: Mia Toretto     Tyrese Gibson: Roman

Ludacris: Tej     Matt Schulze: Vince     Sung Kang: Han

Gal Gadot: Gisele     Michelle Rodriguez: Letty

Good Guys (cops):

Dwayne Johnson: Hobbs     Elsa Pataky: Elena

Bad Guys:

Luke Evans: Shaw     Gina Carano: Riley

This movie follows in the footsteps of Fast Five (2011) in being more James Bond than The Dukes of Hazard.  In that, the movie works reasonably well. It is not quite as well done as Fast Five, but stands on its own, as long as one is willing to overlook the usual ignorance of physics, logic and continuity. Screenwriter Chris Morgan cannot resist the trademarks of this franchise, which include a scene or two of a party or car race with close ups of various undulating skinny female hips clad in skirts so short they’re hats. In any case, Director Justin Lin has learned from the first five installments, and doesn’t stray too far from what worked in the last movie.

The story begins with various vignettes of Dom’s–Vin Diesel’s–crew, all living very comfortable lives away from the USA. But something is missing: they’re all still fugitives, though un-extraditable fugitives. Enter Diplomatic Security Service super agent Hobbs–Dwayne Johnson–who needs Dom and his crew for one more job. Dom, as the script of this type of movie requires, is not interested. He’s living with Elena–Elsa Pataky–and is very happy indeed. Then, as the script of this type of movie requires, Hobbs produces the one thing that could entice Dom back into action: current photos of Letty–Michelle Rodriguez–who everyone though was killed in Fast & Furious by the minion of the evil drug lord, Braga. Full pardons for Dom and his team don’t hurt either.

We still have no idea why anyone working for the DSS would be doing anything like what Hobbs is doing rather than protecting diplomats.

Why does Hobbs need Dom and his team? Because a competing team of supposed former special forces types led by Owen Shaw–Luke Evans–a former SAS operator, is stealing the components necessary to build what sounds like an Electromagnetic Pulse device that will destroy the universe or something like that, and all he needs is a couple more. Of course, only Dom and his team of untrained, non-combat experienced, authority hating, does-not-work-and-play-well-with-others motorheads can possibly beat the elite military veterans at their own game.

So it’s off to London where Dom and his team–absent the two Hispanic guys from the last movie who were a sort of comic relief that weren’t funny–are ready to spring a trap on Shaw, but Shaw is ahead of him. It’s a decoy to distract the team while Shaw’s team steals a component elsewhere. This leads to a wild chase through the streets of London with two sort of Ferrari-powered door stops, that scoop up and fling vehicles every which way, driven by Shaw and a female accomplice. Needless to say, Shaw gets away, and Dom’s team is foiled. Curses!

Oh yes, since Dom has Elena, Hobbs needs a new partner, who also happens to be female: Riley–Gina Carano. Elena and Mia–Jordana Brewster–have had their child, a boy, and Elena and Mia are back in Spain chilling with the baby.

Then a bummer. At the end of the first chase with the bad guys, Dom meets Letty and says hi. She returns the greeting by shooting him in the shoulder. In the movies being shot in the shoulder is kind of like having a large, angry pimple popped. It’s a little messy and annoying, but you’ll be back on your feet as soon as you pull out the bullet yourself as Dom does, which gives him the opportunity to grimace manfully.  Manly grimacing is a substantial part of the emotional content of this franchise.  Of course, the bullet is a very special type, so Dom is able to track down where Letty got the gun, etc., etc., which is a scene that basically lets Dom be a tough guy but really doesn’t have a lot to do with the plot, to the extent that there is a plot rather than a series of weakly linked excuses for wild, if entertaining, action sequences.

But how could Letty shoot Dom, her one true love? She has amnesia! C’mon, you saw that coming. The bad guy didn’t shoot her, he shot her car, and she got blown a hundred yards away, because any car that gets shot immediately explodes like ten pounds of C4. Shaw found out about her from Braga, and snatched her up to use her unique, non-military trained talents of driving pretty fast without running into solid objects too much, or getting blown up too much, and not knowing anything about anything. What else could anyone want in a henchperson for a highly elite team?

But before too much else happens, Brian, who feels bad about what happened to Letty, because he pretty much caused it all, has to go back to the United States and sneak into the prison, disguised as a prisoner, where Braga is being held. He has a fight scene, stabs Braga, gets the information he needs, but that no one actually needed to do their jobs, and gets back to London in time for the next wild action scene. Any one of the other actors could easily have asked him “So, why did you go back to the US again?” at any point, and he’d have to rely on his dialogue from an earlier movie and say “I dunno.”  At one point, he apologizes to Letty, who essentially says she doesn’t remember any of it anyway, so it’s cool.

Dom meets Letty at a street race, where she, despite having no memory of anything somehow remembers that she is a street racer, and rather than trying to immediately shoot him again, they flirt and race and he beats her, and of course she is starting to fall in love all over again with the lovable big lug, but leaves and in comes Shaw for a little Bond/villain verbal jousting, and Shaw is going to have a henchman shoot Dom–a laser dot appears on his chest–but bummer, a laser dot appears on Shaw’s chest too, so there must be additional wild action sequences.

On the next action sequence, Dom and his crew have to intercept Shaw and his crew as they hijack a NATO convoy carrying the last component they need, a computer chip. Apparently NATO has no helicopters, so the chip must be transported in the most obvious, slow and vulnerable manner possible. The wild chase takes place on an elevated highway above the widest gorge in the universe. This highway pretty much goes on forever.

Shaw and Letty and one other bad guy get into the vehicle containing the chip and burst out–driving a tank! It’s kind of like an M1 Abrahms, but has a sort of WWII bomber glass cockpit below the cannon, which is kind of an odd thing for a main battle tank to have, and it doesn’t figure in the plot at all, but so what? Not much else in the movie does either.

The bad guys shoot up or run over pretty much everything and Dom gets the bright idea of lassoing the tank’s cannon and flinging the car/winch to which the line is attached off a bridge, because maybe it will catch on something and somehow, at the last minute, stop the tank–somehow. But Letty climbs on the top of the tank to remove the cable, and at the last minute, it works! And the 70 ton tank flips on its top, and Letty is propelled through space like a pumpkin shot from one of those really big pumpkin cannons, and she’s going to fall to her death between the raised highways, but Dom, with absolutely impeccable timing, flings himself from a car through the air, does an interception of Letty in mid air that would make Superman jealous, and breaks their fall by landing, on his back on the windshield of a conveniently parked car, which doesn’t so much as wind him.

Do I really need to go into how both of them would have been turned to jelly by the impact of Dom smashing into her in mid air at that velocity, or what would have happened to Dom when he hit that car in a world where the laws of physics applied? I didn’t think so.

Shaw and his compatriots are captured, and Letty has come over to the side of good, or at least, the not yet extradited. But Shaw has an ace in the hole. He taunts the good guys about how he has been two steps ahead of them all along, which he can get away with because he has been two steps ahead of them all along. And, as the script of this type of movie would require, he has kidnapped Mia, though Elena got away with their son. Shaw demands to be given the chip and set free, and so he is. Oh yes, Riley goes with him! She’s a traitor and was all along. Surprise!

But Dom and his crew jam all radio and cell phone transmissions and go after Shaw and his crew as they speed down a runway on the NATO base, a runway that is apparently longer than the Great Wall of China. Dom has no idea where Mia is, but here she comes: she’s being held captive–but restrained only by cross looks–on a huge cargo jet which lands and drops its rear ramp, but keeps going down the never-ending runway.

The bad guys get onboard, and Dom, Letty and Hobbs do too, which sets off a wild melee with Letty and Riley going at it, and Dom taking on Shaw and Hobbs taking on a guy who looks like he personally consumes 2/3 of world steroid production–every day. Much of the cargo appears not to be actually secured (so it can be flung about during the fight), which in a cargo plane pretty much spells death and destruction, but as the fight rages, and the jet covers two miles a minute but doesn’t seem inclined to take off for some reason, the rest of Dom’s crew tries to keep it from taking off by shooting harpoons into it in the hope of keeping it on the ground. There is a brief scene where the pilots observe they’re too heavy, so let’s accelerate and take off anyway, and they’re off in the slowest accelerating jet in history, continuing down a runway that apparently extends to Mars.

Letty eventually shoots Riley out a door with a huge harpoon gun, Han–Sung Kang–is about to save Gisele–Gal Gadot–but she lets go and falls to her death so she can shoot a bad guy about to get Han, and Dom and Hobbs flatten Shaw and steroid man. Letty and Hobbs get off the plane, but it crashes with Dom on board, in a fiery explosion that reduces it to nothing in seconds, but Dom comes strolling through the flaming wreckage with the chip.

Amazingly, Han doesn’t bother to drive back down the runway from Mars–we never see the end of it–to make sure Gisele is only wounded instead of dead, nor does anyone else. Who knows? Maybe she has amnesia too, but they don’t bother to look. Han says he’s going to Tokyo because he and Giselle planned to go there, which is probably not a good move as he died there in the Tokyo Drift movie seven years ago, so it’s not clear how he can go back in time to die, but talk about going there in the future, but that’s the miracle of cinema.

In the final scene, Dom and his crew–what’s left of it–are back home in the USA at his incredibly run down home in a run down section of Los Angeles. Hobbs and Elena show up and Elena is cool with being dumped for Letty, who still doesn’t know anybody or anything, but is cool with having dinner outdoor sitting on Dom’s lap. Is that an ear of sweet corn in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Hobbs delivers the pardons, and he and Dom have a manly man moment where they don’t stand facing each other, but exchange terse dialogue that would possibly fill one side of an index card, which promises future adventures.

The action sequences are well shot, the production values are professional, the hips undulate, there are plenty of slinky women and fast cars and fast cars containing slinky women, and despite enough clichés and predictable–though brief–dialogue to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool, the movie is entertaining, and the characters, for anyone that has seen the previous movies, have grown on you, sort of like a mold or fungus, a mold or fungus that undergoes no character development.

The profit margins on this one weren’t quite as good as last time. On a production budget of $160 million, the movie has made nearly $790 million worldwide. Unfortunately, before all the shooting on the next installment was completed, Paul Walker was killed in a car accident. His uncompleted scenes were shot using computer generated imagery, and the script was changed to reflect that reality.

Having recovered from the first four installments of the franchise, I’ll plow into the most recent when it’s out on DVD.  Don’t turn off your ignition just yet.

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