By JAMES DAWSON
Front Row Features Film Critic
Buckle up and hold on tight for the wildest thrill ride of the summer. This amazingly over-the-top action/soap hybrid is so much crazy fun it’s irresistible. Full of jaw-dropping stunts, gleefully preposterous plot twists and adrenaline-rush car chases that are “Road Warrior”-level outrageous, this pedal-to-the-metal joyride is guaranteed to please.
“Fast & Furious 6” reunites series standard-bearers Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) with later franchise additions Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang) and Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot) as daredevil street racers who weave between both sides of the law. This time out, the gang is enlisted to help bust international terrorist mastermind Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a high-body-count hijacker who is after a doomsday computer chip.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns as ridiculously pumped-up lawman Luke Hobbs, whose idea of enhanced interrogation involves using an uncooperative arrestee for some creative furniture breaking, wall shattering and even ceiling wrecking. His bait to get the F&F team members out of ritzy retirement after their $100 million haul in 2011’s “Fast Five” is a recent surveillance photo of Dom’s girlfriend Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), believed dead since 2009’s “Fast & Furious.”
Suffering from a classic daytime-drama case of total amnesia that thankfully hasn’t affected her fearless driving skills, Letty is now part of Shaw’s very nasty crew. Can devoted Dom jog Letty’s memory enough to tow her back to the right side of life’s double-yellow line? Will taking down Shaw earn Our Heroes the full pardons they crave for their previous crimes? And will new dad Brian ever see his adorable son or his adoring wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) again?
Most of the action unfolds in a version of London where streets never happen to be too congested to hinder hundred-mile-an-hour hot pursuits. Shaw’s most impressive set of wheels is an armored and virtually indestructible Formula One-style racer that flips and flees from police cruisers. Then again, the massive tank he uses to demolish countless oncoming cars on a highway in Spain is no clunker, either.
Possibly the cleverest thing about the zippy screenplay by Chris Morgan, who also scripted the last three F&F features, is its rationale for getting Our Heroes out of modern state-of-the-art wheels and back into some good old-fashioned American muscle cars (including a 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger and Ford Mustang). Shaw and his high-tech henchmen can disable present-day autos by taking over their internal computers, so only vintage vehicles are inviolable.
The movie’s storyline exists in such an amped-up tongue-in-cheek reality that even its genre cliches are forgivable (snipers who don’t take shots, good guys who let villains go free only to chase them again immediately, savagely brutal fistfights that don’t leave so much as a bruise the next day).
Director Justin Lin (who previously helmed “Fast Five,” “Fast & Furious” and 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”) keeps the action scenes entertainingly edge-of-your-seat frantic. The biggest involves a deliriously extended effort to keep a Russian cargo plane from taking off. That chase, which ends up involving just about the entire cast, lasts so long that the runway would have to be more than 10 miles in length, but so what? Like the rest of the movie, the payoff is more than worth a little suspension of disbelief, or even a lot.
Also, be sure to stay through the end credits for a high-impact bonus scene that sets up the next “Fast & Furious” outing, featuring an action star who seems like an incredibly obvious fit for the franchise.