Review: 'Fast & Furious 6' Defies the Law of Diminishing Returns

Fast and Furious 6

There are critic-proof movies, and then there's the Fast & Furious franchise, a series of films that defies ongoing critical indifference and/or contempt with its $1.6 billion (and counting) worldwide gross even as the films themselves cheerfully ignore all manner of seemingly immutable cinematic laws -- like, for instance, the one that says there's only so long you can keep on convincing people to buy tickets when you're telling a non-story that involves vapid or flat-out unlikable characters, even if really neat car chases are involved.

That's the conventional wisdom, anyway. But conventions are for weenies who drive sedans, and Fast & Furious 6 is this series' latest example of loudly irrefutable proof -- a roaring behemoth of an action flick whose astonishingly puny cargo is rendered immaterial by the hands-down impressive way it skillfully navigates the line between dumb fun and aggressive stupidity. At an age when most franchises that make it this far are being led out back for a straight-to-video mercy killing, the Fast movies are actually expanding their audience; that said, if you're even thinking about buying a ticket at this point, you have to know exactly what you're in for here, and whatever it is you're looking for in a Fast sequel -- car chases, lithe bodies, painfully dumb dialogue, preposterous set pieces -- Fast & Furious 6 delivers exactly what it's supposed to.

The lion's share of the credit has to go to longtime director Justin Lin, who understands how to balance the need for pulse-pounding action against the danger of a film like this taking itself too seriously. Unlike a lot of movies that rely on FX-fueled machinery for thrills (for example, Michael Bay's Transformers), Lin's Fast sequels don't treat their human characters with contempt or shove them entirely to the margins, and as a result, everyone here seems to be having a good time, even if their dramatic gifts (which, it probably goes without saying, vary widely) are largely incidental. And even when Lin inflates the action to ludicrous heights, there are still enough genuine stakes to keep you sufficiently invested even as you're chuckling about the notion of a mid-air hand-to-hand rescue in the shadow of a falling tank. The characters are action figures and the cars are expensive toys, but against all odds, their movement feels more like the product of childlike joy than digitally calibrated cynicism.

Sadly for Fast fans, Universal's (ahem) accelerated production schedule for the already-inevitable Fast & Furious 7 has forced Lin to depart the franchise, leaving the keys in the allegedly capable hands of James Wan, whose credentials as a Saw mastermind don't exactly scream "fun." Then again, at this point, I wouldn't bet against Wan either; if the FF movies can make it this far without slowing down, it may just be the Bond series for people who care about cars more than character development -- and judging from those incredible grosses, those people seem to be in the majority. For everyone else, there's always Before Midnight (a course of action that my esteemed colleague Sara Vizcarrondo wholeheartedly endorses, by the way).

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About Jeff Giles

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Jeff is an entertainment writer and editor whose work currently appears at a variety of sites, including Rotten Tomatoes, Paste, American Songwriter, Popdose, Dadnabbit, Diffuser, and Ultimate Classic Rock.

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