Reviewer’s Rating: ★★
Ever wonder what it would feel like to suddenly wake up in another universe?
You could find out, perhaps, by joining the next space mission to another galaxy, or, slightly easier, you could go to your local multiplex and watch “Fast & Furious 6” without having seen the first five movies.
Should you decide to undertake this anthropological experiment, you’d immediately discover there are things everyone except you already knows. For example: jokes about baby oil and big foreheads are very funny in this universe. Cars, of course, are the most important thing, and of course there are no speed limits. Weapons come next on the list, and the bigger the better — but in one-on-one physical combat, bald heads are surprisingly effective. Speaking of those fights: They’re brutal, yet somehow, no organs get damaged and even bruises are minimal.
And oh yes, bikinis and bottoms are important. Not bikini bottoms — well, those too — but bottoms in bikinis. What this has to do with car racing is not entirely clear.
Most importantly, in this universe, there is no such thing as “less is more.” More is always more, and so, “Fast & Furious 6” will delight fans of the franchise, because there is more of everything here. Director Justin Lin gives us not only great cars doing ridiculous things at ridiculous speeds, but also a huge army tank and a great stunt involving a giant cargo plane.
Newcomers will be a little confused as to who everyone is, since there is little explanation at this point, but fans will be glad to know their favorites are back, starting with Vin Diesel’s Dom, the hotshot driver with the clean-shaven head (the better to butt other heads with) and a strong sense of family. When we first see him, he’s careening down a winding cliff road in the Canary Islands with cohort/former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). Turns out they’re heading to the hospital, where O’Conner’s wife (and Dom’s sister), Mia (Jordana Brewster, in a small role this time) is giving birth. A sweet family moment.
Meanwhile, Dom, on the lam from the U.S. and hugely wealthy from his last venture, is shacked up in a sunny love nest with a gorgeous Brazilian cop (Elsa Pataky). Who needs to work? That’s what he tells Hobbs, the insanely buff federal agent played by Dwayne Johnson, when he comes calling, a nemesis from the last film who’s now promising immunity in exchange for Dom’s help. He wants Dom to nab a villain named Shaw (Luke Evans) — he’s the snarly guy with the tank and the plane and a huge military arsenal which is one little component short of wreaking total havoc.
A reluctant Dom gets on board when he learns that Letty, his former love (Michelle Rodriguez) is working for Shaw. But wait ... wasn’t she dead? Well, actually she’s alive, but she has amnesia. Anyway, the game is on.
Happily, amid all the noise, the races — there’s a terrific one through the streets of downtown London — the crashes and the outlandish stunts, there is some humor, and it’s very welcome. Particularly funny are Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej, Dom’s partners in crime. Also back for more adventures are the attractive duo of Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot); Gina Carano is a newcomer as an agent whose fighting skills give Letty a run for her money.
Not everyone gets out alive. As for the lucrative franchise, though, it’s more than alive and kicking, judging from the new film’s overseas success. A post-credits sequence teases the upcoming seventh film. In the “Fast & Furious” universe, it’s not just international criminals who rake it in.