Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet both physically and financially, earning him the nickname "franchise Viagra" for his uncanny ability to appear in sequels and provide a burst of energy and enthusiasm to revitalize flagging franchises. It's the magic Johnson worked when he was brought into the fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious series, and it shows no signs of stopping with a massive $117 million opening weekend for Fast & Furious 6. As Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman said of Johnson, "it's like everything you ever imagined in an action hero and then some."
Though to be honest, I always knew it would be like this. I've been a fan of Johnson since his days in professional wrestling as the Rock, where Johnson's charisma, confidence, acting, and physical abilities were so captivating that fans just couldn't help rooting for him, even though he was cast as a villain. Now the non-wrestling world is getting a sense of what Johnson can do, and with his superior looks, acting ability, and physicality, I firmly believe that Johnson will soon surpass Arnold Schwarzenegger as the greatest movie action hero ever. It's Johnson -- as well as the disregard the filmmakers have for logic and physics -- that makes Fast & Furious 6 such a good time. Watch my ReThink Review of Fast & Furious 6 below (transcript following).
I was slow to get into the Fast and the Furious series, mostly because I have no interest in car culture and even less in street racing. And after watching the first Fast and the Furious, I was struck by how the majority of the dialogue was made up of shouted interjections like, "Yeah!" "Come on!" and "Let's go!" But I got re-interested in the series after reading an article about how the franchise accomplished the impossible by reinventing itself, moving away from street racing after The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and solidifying itself as straight up crime capers in Fast Five with the addition of Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson as a law enforcement agent. Now, with critics and audiences embracing the franchise's often implausible balls-out action and laughable dialogue, we have Fast & Furious 6, with the series -- like its souped-up cars -- showing no sign of slowing down.
After the events of Fast 5, Dominic (played by Vin Diesel) and his crew are living in luxury in various countries off their earnings from the last heist. Agent Hobbs (played by Johnson) along with new agent Riley (played by Gina Carano) find Dom and ask him to reassemble his crew to help track down a former British Special Forces soldier named Shaw (played by Luke Evans) who's stealing components for a government-threatening weapon to sell to the highest bidder. Along with the customary promises of amnesty, Hobbs entices Dom with information that Dom's former girlfriend Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) who was seemingly killed in the fourth film is still alive and working with Shaw.
So Dom assembles his team in London, comprised of cop turned outlaw Brian (played by Paul Walker), tech whiz Tej (played by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), motormouth comic relief Roman (played by Tyrese Gibson), and dating drivers Han and Gisele (played by Sung Kang and Gal Gadot). Along with Hobbs and Riley, the group drives, fights, runs, and explodes their way across England and Spain to stop Shaw and his team, who always seem to be one step ahead of them.
Now I've said in the past that big action movies don't need to be dumb to be fun, with films like Die Hard, The Matrix, and more recently The Avengers as proof. That said, Fast 6 is so much fun because it's knowingly dumb and doesn't let things like logic, physics, or reality get in the way of the good time it's determined to give you. The plot is largely inconsequential, since it's just an excuse for high-adrenalin fights and chases. Dom's team are like automotive superheroes, capable of doing the impossible as long as it happens in or around a car. It actually reminded me of John Woo's action classic Hard-Boiled, where the three main gunslingers never reload and are seemingly incapable of being killed as they waste hundreds of henchmen.
Perhaps the biggest fun generator is the Rock, who gives every scene he's in a jolt of energy, if only by his sheer physical presence. When he's being a badass, there's no one badder, and when he's not in a scene, you just wish there was a reason for him to be there. Yet no matter how serious he's being, there's always an implied smile and wink acknowledging how ridiculous it is that a guy so enormous and ripped is just walking around.
And that sort of winking humor is evident throughout Fast 6, and fans of the series are totally in on the joke, laughing and cheering as the stunts get bigger and more impossible, scantily-clad women are trotted out for no reason, or when Diesel or Walker try to deliver some overly serious bit of dialogue. Fast 6 is simply all-out fun, and with domestic and international success virtually assured, I'm excited to see how this series goes even bigger and sillier in sequels to come.