Every picture in this curiously addictive franchise has built on the excess of its predecessor, as if it’s engaged in an endless, double-dog-dare-ya game of one-upmanship with itself. The cars vroom ever faster, the kabooms get bigger, the ogling shots leer longer. But for all the Sturm und Drang of this fifth sequel, nothing matches the pure, stomach-dropping poetry of its stripped-down opening sequence, a two-car race along the cliffsides of the Canary Islands. Everything else is a comedown.
The extradition-free Canary Islands are where professional outlaws Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Walker) are holed up, enjoying the spoils of Fast & Furious 5’s epic heist. But no sooner does Dom declare that “our old life is done” does Dwayne Johnson’s federal agent Hobbs show up to pull the boys back into the game, brandishing pictures of Dom’s dead girlfriend, Letty (Rodriguez) – offed in the fourth film – looking very much alive and now in league with an international thief named Shaw (Evans). Dom swiftly reassembles his team, including Roman (Gibson), dumb as a rock but easy on the eyes; wise-cracking gearhead Tej (Ludacris, the film’s most reliable hand at comedy); and Han (Kang) and Gisele (Gadot), whose background romance stealthily pulls the focus from Letty and Dom’s love match in twin tanks and graveled vocal cords.
There is a plot – a pretty clunky one, jerry-rigged with character motivations that amount to one long “huh?” and dialogue that might as well have been chunked out of a cliche generator – but who needs plot when we can have mayhem? Fast & Furious 6 offers mayhem to burn (pyrotechnics, too!), and there is continued pleasure in all the prelingual revving engines and action acrobatics; Johnson has mastered a flying head-konk move that thrills like a fine drum solo. But we’ve heard this song before – catchy but banal, monotonous – and it hasn’t gotten any better with time.