This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the first Jurassic Park. For most of us at Cinedelphia, it is a film that has defined what we look for in a summer blockbuster. So what better time than now to revisit the last 25 years of summer blockbusters and pick our favorites? View the criteria and full introduction here, and the whole series here.
14. Fast and Furious 6 (dir. Justin Lin, 2013)
There is a transitive property by which all Fast and/or Furious movies operate: CARS = FAMBLY* = CARS. If your fambly is in danger, you simply need a car. If a car is unavailable, you need fambly at your side. These two concepts start as somewhat separate ideas in the beginning of the series, but as it moves forward (and specifically when Justin Lin gets involved) they are woven together until they become one in the same. While it sounds silly (and it very much is) it’s the essential element of this series that makes it work. Because at the end of the day, this franchise is a melodramatic soap opera fueled by high octane car stunts and NOS. And that melodrama has never been better than it was in Furious 6.
There’s a lot of reasons I could throw out there as to why this is likely my favorite entry in the series that go beyond the intense melodrama. It’s one of the only entries where Diesel and The Rock play nice together. Ludacris enhances an already insane harpoon gun with NOS. The runway sequence at the end is one of the most batshit finales of all time and shouldn’t make any logistical sense but Lin pulls it off and makes it fluid and smooth. And he makes the smartest decision in modern action cinema by not trying to convince us that Tyrese and Sung Kang could beat The Raid’s Joe Taslim, even in a 2-on-1 fight. But none of those things are the reason I come back to this entry as my favorite. It’s the highway sequence that keeps me coming back.
The highway sequence is the height of this franchise for me, specifically because it best illustrates the marriage of melodrama and action that define it. This isn’t just some car chase, it’s a brilliantly choreographed crescendo of emotion and explosions, especially in its final moments. As innocent people are wantonly run over by a fucking tank, we are instead focused on the internal struggle of Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Letty. Suffering from amnesia and working with the bad guys, we understand that this is not who she is – who she is is fambly, and there’s nothing that will change that, especially for Toretto, her former lover. Our villain, Luke Evans’ Shaw, also understands this about Letty and Toretto, and he uses her to bait Toretto into death, allowing her to be flung from the tank over a vast chasm below the highway, knowing Toretto will not be able to stop himself from attempting a rescue. What Shaw somehow doesn’t seem to understand yet is that Toretto is in a car, and with the power of cars and the motivation of fambly, Toretto is unstoppable. As Letty flies through the air to her death, Toretto gets onto the hood of his car and slams it into the median, sending him flying through the air over the same chasm where he captures Letty in his arms and soars back to the other side of the highway, crashing into the windshield of another car, which of course breaks their fall with ease. When Letty later asks Toretto how he knew this completely ridiculous and utterly insane plan would work, he simply says “Some things you just have to take on faith.”
Or read another way, CARS = FAMBLY = CARS.
This series is so fucking stupid, and so fucking sincere, I can’t help but love it. And I mean legitimately love it. When I say nothing gets me charged like that moment in Furious 6, I fucking mean it. It’s truly a soap opera moment – Letty, a character assumed dead for two movies who has miraculously returned with amnesia and is now working for the villains, is rescued by an act of faith based solely on the notion that they are fambly. It’s one of the craziest stunts in the series, and while aided by plenty of digital trickery, it’s the melodrama of it that makes you believe it and stand up and cheer when it happens. Thank god for Justin Lin, who took stock of the three disparate movies this series started with (one of which he made himself) and found the theme that would bind them together and make them feel like pieces of a whole, all while recognizing how inherently silly it all is and how big they could truly go with it. For my money, going to the movies in the summer doesn’t get any better than the cheese-fest that is the Fast & Furious series. If these were coming out as frequently as Marvel movies, I would be so fucking pleased, even though it would result in the mutually assured destruction of Diesel and The Rock.
*Please note that Fambly is the appropriate spelling in regards to this series, as that is specifically and exactly how Vin Diesel says the word in his Toretto voice. Credit to Dan Scully for bringing this term into my world.
Author: Garrett Smith
Garrett is a writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia that spends too much time debating the difference between kinetic and frenetic filmmaking. He likes cheese, in both food and movies. Check him out on twitter and letterboxd and give his podcast, I Like To Movie Movie, a listen.