Fast Five took an ageing franchise from its bonnet-stroking, car modification culture roots into full-blown action heist territory. At a point where the series should have been drifting into a straight-to-video quagmire, the shift in genre (plus the addition of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s oiled-up gravitas) resulted in the most profitable entry yet.
The weekend’s sporting festivities in the US saw the release of Fast & Furious 6‘s first trailer, which offers up a densely-packed welter of crashes, explosions and frowning faces from the past. Join us, then, as we attempt to decode some of its mysteries, and pose a few questions of our own…
When we heard that Fast & Furious 6 was heading to London for one of its film locations, we were a little worried about the direction the franchise might be about to take. We had visions of Dom and Brian (played by action cinema’s odd couple, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) trudging down Oxford Street in the pouring rain, looking mournfully into charity shop windows or buying scotch eggs from Tesco Express. We imagined Mia (Jordanna Brewster) driving around in an Austin Allegro and shivering because the heater doesn’t work.
Fortunately, none of this appears to have come to pass, and Fast 6 looks just as airbrushed and colourful as all the other films in the series – and in director Justin Lin’s twisted imagination, London’s a city of eternal night time, where Luke Evans prowls the streets in what looks like a stolen Mad Max vehicle…
Fast convoy bothering
“Last week, 18 highly-coordinated drivers took down a military convoy,” Dwayne Johnson’s stern voice tells us over the trailer’s opening images. It’s a recurring Fast movie motif that things are always stolen while the vehicles carrying them are hurtling down a motorway. For criminals like Dom and Brian, nicking some money from a parked security van is just too easy; they’d much rather wait until the van’s in motion, and then steal the cash using an elaborate combination of modified Japanese cars and grappling hooks.
At the end of Fast Five, our heroes, along with much of the secondary cast, ended up on the run after successfully relieving a Rio mobster of his life’s savings. In Fast 6, another band of criminals, headed up by Luke Evans, is pulling off high-speed heists – and our heroes are given the task of stopping Evans’ antics, in exchange for a pardon from the Queen, or something.
Long-term fans may note that the scene illustrated above bears more than a passing resemblance to the motorway antics of 2001’s The Fast & The Furious. As the tagline implies (“All roads lead to this…”), the franchise has come full circle – and as we’ll see later, there’s a very good reason why the rival gang’s unorthodox theft methods are so similar to Dom’s…
For better or worse, a Fast film wouldn’t be the same without at least one scene containing pounding music, revving cars and cavorting ladies. Even Fast Five, which largely dispensed with the neon underlighting and street racing in favour of extra fight scenes, still found a reason to sneak in an occasional bikini shot or two. Fast & Furious 6, it seems, has several – including one where a driver gets a car up on two wheels, so it looks like a dog cocking its leg to wee up a lamp post.
Isn’t that clever?
Fast Five’s response to the ‘bigger, louder’ imperative of action sequels was to expand the cast as well as the stunts, with a larger roster of supporting anti-hero characters, and Dwayne Johnson stomping around Rio as Diplomatic Security Service agent, Luke Hobbs.
For Fast 6, returning director Justin Lin’s hired former MMA fighter Gina Carano, who leapt to fame after beating Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender to death in Steven Soderbergh’s coffee table action experiment, Haywire. Given Carano’s considerable physical prowess, we’re assuming she’ll be getting into all sorts of fights in Fast 6, though if the trailer’s anything to go by, she’ll actually spend most of her time sitting or standing two feet away from Dwayne Johnson, and looking enigmatically at something in the middle distance.
She does get a ride in a helicopter, though, which is nice.
We like helicopters.
Fast conspiratorial school children
While it’s difficult to pick up the subtle nuances of the plot from this brief trailer, do we detect a running theme about mischievous school kids in Fast & Furious 6? In one apparently incidental scene, we see a bunch of tittering children hanging around near a Ferrari Enzo. A few seconds later, we see two kids talking conspiratorially behind Ludacris’s back. One of them even appears to be the same mop-haired youngster we saw peering into the Ferrari’s side window earlier. In case you missed him, take a look at the picture below.
Who is he? What’s he up to? Why does Ludacris look so suspicious, as though even he suspects they’re up to something? Are we reading too much into this? Probably. Moving on…
Fast product placement
The location of that Coke machine isn’t exactly subtle, is it? And is that a packet of Tesco’s Value peanuts we can see on the table in front of Tyrese Gibson’s leather-clad frame? Probably, and the rest of the cast don’t look too happy about it.
“I still don’t see why I didn’t get any peanuts,” Vin Diesel’s body language appears to say.
“Just leave it, Vince,” Paul Walker replies, wordlessly, with his face.
“Sulk all you want,” Gibson suggests with his petulant jaw. “They’re my peanuts, and I’m not sharing them.”
What do you do when you’ve thought of just about every conceivable stunt and fancy trick you can pull off with a fleet of ordinary cars? How on earth could the makers of Fast 6 top the action set-piece at the end of its predecessor, which saw Rio destroyed by a fleet of cars dragging a safe behind them like a wrecking ball?
The trailer has the answer: add tanks and aeroplanes. Dusting off their modified cars and grappling hooks, Dom and his team of outlaws spend much of the film, it seems, flinging themselves over military hardware and pulling planes out of the sky. The franchise may have spread to Europe, but it’s clearly brought its same brand of gravity-defying madness with it. Just don’t be too surprised if Fast 7 involves some form of space travel.
The latter third of the trailer elaborates a little bit on the role of Luke Evans’ villain, who’s pretty much relegated to a cameo role in this carnival of explosions and crashes. His precise identity is still a secret, but that weird Mad Max vehicle is clearly his trademark – like Odd Job’s hat or Michael Jackson’s sequined glove.
The Mad Max vehicle, as well as looking stripped-down and mean, is armed with a mechanised flap, which can be used to flip a police car into the air – a bit like Firestorm out of Robot Wars.Thinking about it, this plot point may be the least believable thing in the entire Fast franchise so far; if Luke Evans’ character is meant to be driving this thing around London, it should really have a number plate. Also, look at the windscreen: no tax disc. Mr Evans can flip all the police vehicles he wants, but he should be expecting several stiff letters from the DVLA any day now.
One of the highlights of Fast Five was surely its wall-smashing punch-up between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, which was the franchise’s equivalent of the nude fireside wrestling scene in Ken Russell’s Women In Love.
With all that sexual tension now worked out of their system, it looks as though Diesel and Johnson fight alongside one another in Fast 6, with one scene appearing to show the pair beating up an anonymous goon in the back of a military transport aircraft.
Horrifyingly, the man they’re beating up makes Dwayne Johnson look like a dwarf. Is he a real actor, or an Avatar-like special effect? On a side note, just look at all those clips and toggles on Johnson’s outfit.
He’d be a useful chap to have around on a camping trip.
Those who hung about after the end credits of Fast Five will already know that a photograph of Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Letty Ortiz, made a shock cameo appearance in a brief epilogue. Dom’s girlfriend, whom we all thought had died in 2009’s Fast & Furious, is alive and now working as a member of Luke Evans’ gang of high-speed robbers.
Given that the last shot of the trailer sees Letty look at Dom and then raise a gun, it’s probably safe to conclude that she’s not too keen to see him again. We’re actually wondering whether Rodriguez’s reappearance is a hint of Fast 6‘s supernatural twist: that every character in it died during each of the gonzo, physics-defying stunts they attempted to pull off in the previous movies, and that Europe is Purgatory. If Fast 6 ends with the entire cast sitting together in a chapel and grinning at the camera, remember: you read the theory here first.
Fast 6’s minute-long trailer is mostly given over to vehicular chaos – in fact, of its 60 seconds, we estimate that only 15 contain people rather than cars. Fortunately, when the promo isn’t thrilling us with crashing planes and so forth, it occasionally sees fit throw in the odd human face or two. Here are a few personal favourites:
So there we have it – action, high drama, plus lots and lots of funny faces. We can hardly wait.