Fifth sequels aren’t usually good news.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) is nobody’s favourite, while Police Academy 6: City Under Siege failed to trouble the 1989 Oscars.
How, then, has the Fast & Furious franchise developed such staying power? Last instalment Fast Five (2011) gave the series a much-needed boost, and while its follow-up isn’t likely to inspire many theses, the quality has definitely been maintained.
Much of the credit must go to four-time series director Justin Lin, who’s improved with every trip. Last time around he edged away from the street-racing arena, and now we’re firmly in the bigger, possibility-rich world of the heist movie. More importantly, he’s chucked plausibility out the window.
Also, The Rock’s back... Essentially a human visual effect, he was the best thing in Fast Five, and he is again here, rounding up Dom (Vin Diesel) and the gang to take down Luke Evans’ band of mercenaries.
Sadly, six films have given the series a sprawling cast (it’s starting to look like a petrolhead Game Of Thrones) and the need to give most of them something to do means that Mr Johnson is sidelined far too often.
Equally, the crowded roster means that deaths and betrayals barely register anymore. With seconds to become invested in people, and characterisation hardly top priority, you find yourself waiting for every time Johnson arrives to deliver a personality injection. At least it’s less brain-melting than trying to work out the labyrinthine history of the central team.
Still, if it’s deep characters you’re looking for, we have HBO for that nowadays. These films are set-piece delivery systems, and Lin keeps the car flips and thundering tanks coming.
True, a visit to London awkwardly tries to apply the series’ hip hop aesthetic to the capital, and a sequence centred on Piccadilly’s hitherto unknown drag-racing scene is just weird.
What does work is the chases. Well-shot and clearly cut, and bringing a crucial sense of showmanship and joy, they suggest Lin may be the best young director in the world at finding ways to send bald men hurtling through the air.
Let’s just hope that next time more of a gap can be found in the People’s Champion’s diary…
Blu-ray offers an extended edit (‘all the action that was too hot for cinema’) and plenty of stunt-centric featurettes.