Fast & Furious 6 Revisited: is it the most underrated movie in the Fast Saga?

Fast & Furious 6 is often dismissed as one of the most disposable entries into the Fast Saga, but there’s more to it than people remember.

Last Updated on May 30, 2024

INTRO: The Fast and Furious franchise becomes a globe-trotting adventure with the sixth film. Which features some of the biggest action sequences yet. Brings a character back from the dead with a plotline right out of a soap opera. Wraps up a timeline issue. And became an even bigger hit than the very popular Fast Five. Our franchise retrospective has reached Furious 6 now – and it’s time for this one to be Revisited.

SET-UP: After directing three Fast and Furious movies in a row, Justin Lin wasn’t sure if he’d come back for the sixth film. But he knew what he wanted to see in a future sequel, whether he directed it or not. While working on the fourth movie, he had an idea for an extended action sequence involving an airplane on a runway. A sequence that would end with the sight of a car driven by Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto bursting through the nose of the plane. Lin was so excited by this idea, he even hired digital pre-visualization artists to put together a version of it. The problem was, it would be extremely expensive to film. And it didn’t fit into the story of the fourth movie. It didn’t fit into Fast Five, either. But Lin knew it would make it into a sequel someday. And if it ended up being directed by someone else, they’d still have his pre-viz mock-up to watch to figure out how to execute it. But as it turns out, Lin was given the chance to bring that sequence to life. Given the choice between directing Furious 6, a Terminator sequel, or the Highlander remake, he chose to go on another ride with Dom and his crew. Now that’s dedication to family.

Furious 6 was announced just two months after Fast Five was released. And by the time of that announcement, Lin was already signed on. Soon after, he told BoxOffice.com about the plane sequence – without mentioning that it involved a plane. He said, “I already have a twelve minute sequence done. I did it just as an exercise. I had it done before we were finished with Fast Five, actually. …. I really wanted to make sure that the last scene, which I had talked to Vin about countless times – I wanted to make sure that was done. So actually I storyboarded it, I pre-vized it, and I cut it. So it’s funny, when we were in Atlanta shooting 5, I already had the end sequence to 6 done. And that was what I wanted to work towards.”

Chris Morgan, who wrote the previous three movies, was writing this one as well. And the ensemble cast was in place. That means Diesel, who would also be producing with Neal H. Moritz, was returning to play heroic-but-criminal street racer Dom. Paul Walker would be back as lawman turned outlaw Brian O’Conner. Jordana Brewster returns as Dom’s sister and Brian’s wife Mia. But she’s given less to do, because her character gives birth at the beginning of the movie. Their fast-driving pals Roman, Tej, Han, and Gisele – played by Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot – were back as well. Fast Five new addition Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. “The Rock”) reprises the role of Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs. And Elsa Pataky is back as Dom’s love interest, former police officer Elena. But their romance quickly comes to an end when Dom finds out his girlfriend Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, is still alive. Viewers and the characters were led to believe that she died in the fourth movie. But she’s still out there, still pulling off high speed crimes. She just doesn’t remember her life with Dom because the crash we thought killed her has left her with amnesia. Clearly Morgan is a fan of the daytime soap operas.

By this time, the franchise has dealt with thieves, drug dealers, and criminal kingpins. But part of the goal with Fast Five was to shake things up and start expanding the scope. These weren’t just street racing movies anymore. They could be heist movies. They could be globe-trotting adventures. And with Furious 6, our street racers find themselves in the middle of a story that could’ve just as easily served as the set-up for a James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie. A former soldier named Owen Shaw has decided to follow his military career with a life of crime. He has gathered together a team of highly coordinated drivers – including Letty. They use their vehicles to carry off insane heists that leave the authorities baffled. Attacking the likes of military convoys in the quest to gather components that can be assembled into a Nightshade device. A tech bomb that can block an entire communication grid for twenty-four hours. Stopping them could be a job for a super spy to handle. Instead, it’s Luke Hobbs who has been chasing Shaw across four continents and through twelve countries. Including Russia. Now he has received information that indicates Shaw and his crew are in London. And he knows that he needs a team of skilled drivers to catch this group of villainous drivers. So he turns to the best drivers he knows: Dom, Brian, and their friends. If they help catch Shaw, their past criminal actions will be pardoned. And in the process, they’ll be able to reunite Dom and Letty. So they agree to take on this dangerous mission.

Luke Evans was cast as Owen Shaw. Clara Paget, Kim Kold, Joe Taslim, David Ajala, Samuel Stewart, Thure Lindhardt, Benjamin Davies, and Matthew Stirling play his many associates. Don’t expect any of them to make much of an impact. But some of them do have fun moments in action sequences. Another new addition to the cast was former MMA fighter and American Gladiator Gina Carano. Who was cast as a DSS agent who works with Hobbs.

The idea of making two Fast and Furious sequels back-to-back has come up several times as the franchise has gone on. Especially when they started talking about wrapping it up. As they already were at this point. There was a moment when Universal was considering having Lin make parts 6 and 7 back-to-back. And he was glad to have the opportunity to close out the franchise in the right way. The first movie would be called The Fast, and the climactic sequence would involve Shaw’s crew taking control of a tank. The story would conclude in a follow-up called The Furious. Which would end with that plane runway sequence Lin had envisioned.

Diesel explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “With the success of this last one, and the inclusion of so many characters, and the broadening of scope, when we were sitting down to figure out what would fit into the real estate of number 6, we didn’t have enough space. We have to pay off this story, we have to service all of these character relationships, and when we started mapping all that out it just went beyond 110 pages. The studio said, ‘You can’t fit all that story in one damn movie!’”

But then it was decided to condense the story into one damn movie after all. So Shaw’s crew does gain control of a tank for one sequence, but that’s not the end. It’s followed by the plane runway sequence, which does end the movie.

Most of Furious 6 takes place in and around London – with the action jumping over to Spain late in the running time. The original plan was have that tank tearing right through Piccadilly Circus. But Piccadilly Circus turned out to be incredibly difficult to film in. There is a scene where Dom and Letty go through the area, and the production was only allowed to stop traffic for seven minutes at a time to shoot that. The filmmakers planned to film the tank action at a replica of Piccadilly Circus they built elsewhere. Which would require using digital trickery to put the surrounding buildings in the background. But then they found out they could get access to an unopen highway in the Canary Islands. So they decided to use that highway for the tank sequence instead. The production also discovered that it was impossible to shut down other sections of London for a chase sequence. So parts of the chase were filmed in Liverpool, two hundred miles away from London. And parts were filmed in Glasgow, Scotland. Four hundred miles away. But plenty of shooting was done in the actual city. The start of the street race scene was filmed right down the road from the Prime Minister’s office. Singer Rita Ora was added into this sequence later. Because Diesel had met her and felt that she embodied London.

Finding stand-ins for London wasn’t the only challenge Lin faced on this one. He was racing against time throughout. Struggling to keep the movie on schedule. And it seems like the studio was especially flippant when it came to cutting moments involving the Han and Gisele characters. But Lin had a special fondness for Han. Since he was basically introduced in an indie movie Lin had made called Better Luck Tomorrow. So he made sure to get the moments he needed with those characters. Even if it meant shooting with Sung Kang and Gal Gadot off schedule. He did have to drop a motorcycle chase that would have involved Gisele, though. Another complication arose when Paul Walker suffered an ACL injury during filming. They had to shoot around any moments of Brian action while waiting for him to heal. The race against time continued in post-production, which Lin was given just twelve weeks to complete. It took a large team that included five editors, but he got it done.

REVIEW: Furious 6 didn’t turn out quite as well as the game-changing Fast Five did… But it’s a serviceable attempt at giving the audience more of what they liked about the previous film. Owen Shaw isn’t a particularly interesting villain. And his plot to put together a Nightshade device doesn’t mean much. This is something Lin was very aware of during filming. But adventure films thrive on what are called MacGuffins. Something that keeps the story moving and motivates the characters. The villain wants to get their hands on it. The heroes want to stop them from using it. But the object itself doesn’t really matter. The Nightshade device is such an irrelevant MacGuffin, Lin made sure the name is only mentioned once in the film. All we need to know is that Shaw is a bad guy and wants to do something bad. Which Dom and his cohorts can’t let happen. The important part of the story is the personal side of it. Shaw found Letty when she was in a vulnerable position. In a hospital, suffering from amnesia. Now he has her on his team – and Dom needs to get her back. The Letty story is completely ridiculous, but it gives the viewer something to care about in the midst of all the action, where we get to see the destruction of a couple hundred vehicles.

And the action is what makes the movie worth watching. We get multiple shootouts, chases, races, and fight scenes. The sequence that involves a tank crushing cars on the highway is a standout. But so is a chase through London, where Shaw drives something referred to as the flip car. A Formula One racing car that has been modified with a ramp on the front. So it can drive straight into other vehicles and send them flipping through the air. Joe Taslim gets to show off his martial arts skills in a fun fight. Where not even the combined forces of Han and Roman can take him down. And Riley and Letty take each other on in a brawl that took three days to film. Toward the end, we get to see Dom and Hobbs team up in a fight against Shaw and the character played by hulking bodybuilder Kim Kold. And it all builds up to that plane runway sequence that Lin was so enthusiastic about. It takes place completely outside of reality. So much happens during the sequence, the runway would have to be longer than any runway in the world. Estimates range from eighteen to twenty-nine miles. The longest runway in existence is just under three and a half miles. But it’s fun to watch.

That’s not the only indication in Furious 6 that the franchise is losing touch with any sense of reality. There’s also moments like Hobbs jumping onto Shaw’s flip car from an overpass. Dom getting shot in the chest and being able to shrug it off. And most absurd of all: Dom crashing a car to launch himself through the air. So he can have a collision with Letty, who has been launched into the air by a crash of her own. Their flight comes to an end with them smashing down onto the windshield of another vehicle. Apparently falls from great heights or being thrown through the air at great speed won’t result in injury. Just as long as you have a car to cushion your landing.

There are some nice character moments in here. The emotion doesn’t just come from the soap opera story involving Dom, Letty, and Elena. Lin also made sure to include moments that deal with Han and Gisele’s relationship. Which is building up to tragedy. The events of the fourth, fifth, and sixth films all take place before the third movie, Tokyo Drift. Which is where Han first entered the picture. Hanging out in Tokyo by himself. At the end of Furious 6, we catch up to Tokyo Drift. And we find out why Gisele wasn’t with Han anymore at that time. It’s heartbreaking. But there are also some entertaining moments of humor. With one of the best examples being an interaction Tej and Hobbs have with a snooty auctioneer.

The story of Furious 6 has plenty of issues that can be picked apart. And it seems like Lin and Morgan weren’t quite sure what to do with Brian this time around. Trying to find out how Letty got involved with Shaw leads back to the villain of the fourth movie. Braga, played by John Ortiz. To get the whole story, Brian contacts his former FBI associate Stasiak, played by Shea Whigham. And gets himself sent to prison so he can question Braga. This seems like an unnecessary waste of time in a movie that’s overlong at 131 minutes. The Letty information could have been delivered in a better, quicker way. But it allows Brian to contribute something to the story.

LEGACY/NOW: The title on screen is Furious 6. But an online poll indicated that movie-goers preferred the title Fast & Furious 6, so that’s what was used on marketing materials. Universal gave the film a Memorial Day weekend release in May of 2013 – and was rewarded with the highest opening in the franchise yet. The film made $117 million in the United States over those four days, on its way to a domestic total of almost $239 million. The international numbers were also massive, ending up just under $551 million. Made on a budget of $160 million, with another $100 million going toward marketing, Furious 6 made almost $790 million at the global box office. While Fast Five is still the most well-regarded of the sequels, Furious 6 bested its box office by almost $160 million.

When the time came for the film to reach Blu-ray, Universal released both the theatrical cut and an extended cut that’s about 54 seconds longer. For the most part, the extended cut just puts back in moments of violence that had to be trimmed to achieve a PG-13 rating. More punches, kicks, and headbutts.

Furious 6 was so successful, Universal wanted another sequel as quickly as possible. And the filmmakers had built the set-up for the next sequel into this one. There’s a mid-credits scene that takes place during the chase scene where Han was killed in Tokyo Drift. This reveals the car that crashed into Han wasn’t driven by a random Tokyo citizen. Instead, it was being driven by Owen Shaw’s brother Deckard. Played in a quick cameo by Jason Statham. Deckard obviously has incredible intuition and timing. He was able to crash into Han in the right place at the right time during that chase scene. He intentionally killed Han to avenge his brother. And he’s going after Dominic Toretto next. The studio put the sequel on the fast track to begin filming in September of 2013 so it could be released in the summer of 2014. If Lin came back to direct, that would mean he would have to begin pre-production on part 7 while still in post-production on 6. He felt the quality of 7 would suffer if he were to do that. So he decided to step away from the franchise. Ending his four film streak of Fast and Furious movies.

In their search for a new director, Universal turned to someone who was best known for working in the horror genre. James Wan took the helm of a story about Jason Statham tracking down our street racing heroes. But the film ended up being delayed a year when tragedy struck in the middle of production. And we’ll be talking about that in the next episode of Revisited.

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.