‘Fast & Furious’ has many miles left in its franchise

May 23, 2013
Vin Diesel in "Fast & Furious 6" BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are 2,734,102 miles of paved public roads in the United States alone, with an additional 1,324,245 miles of unpaved public roads.

I mention this because those who think they have seen final stretch of pavement in the “Fast & Furious” franchise (Universal Studio’s most successful franchise, by the way), you may as well let go of that emergency brake.

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And, in all honesty, there really is no need to, as it is a franchise that has become increasingly aware of just what it is, whom it serves, and what makes the registers ring. It has certainly been an odd ride: it started as a rather by-the-numbers series, filled with muscles-heads and muscle cars; there were no real bankable stars, and one entry that featured none of the original cast.

But just as things looked as though they have creatively stalled, director Justin Lin realized that going racing in the streets was not as bankable as heist flicks, and began to turn the wheel into a different direction, picking up some star power with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and becoming more comfortable with both its strengths and limitations.

There is absolutely no reason why you should enjoy a film that features a British Secret Service Agent who can only be stopped by a team of stunt car drivers (even writing that makes me chuckle), but it exemplifies “popcorn-movie escapism,” in a way that that would make Michael Bay weep schoolgirl tears of jealousy.

He wastes no time sending the crew zipping through the streets of London, trying to track down a ruthless mastermind/car enthusiast, (played by Luke Evans) and his second-in-command, who just happens to be the presumed-dead Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez), Vin Deisel’s beard, I mean, girlfriend from past installments of the franchise.

Lin barrels through the checklist that both shorts the pituitary gland but activates the salivary one: absurd-yet-thrilling chases, oiled-up engines and greased-up bodies. But now, in this sixth installment, he has a very simple benefit — familiar, likeable characters who deliver their lines with ease. Sure, Vin Diesel sounds as though his battery is all but drained, but that is why The Rock is in place as federal agent Luke Hobbs to launch the film’s best lines, like: “I want to come crashing down on them like the walls of Jericho!”

Granted, writer Chris Morgan could use help in the metaphor department, giving Brian O'Connor (played by still-blank Paul Walker) such lines as “It’s time to put on the big-boy panties and sail out to the deep water!” As someone who is frequently boating in the ocean, this was attire I was unaware I needed. So noted.

Despite all this, there is something mystifyingly assured about this installment, as if everyone involved had a collective realization of exactly what their fuel-injected empire is built upon. The result is a piqued interest in the next chapter(s) and the many miles this franchise appears it has in front of it.