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We all need a code,
For our lives, for the road,
When the plans we prepare
Hit a wall and explode.

However we fare,
And whatever we bear,
Our constant is known,
And it always is there.

It may be your own
Or it may be borrowed,
But when we’re alone,
Every man needs a code.

MPA rating:  PG-13

Finally, a holiday break! And that means I finally have some extra time to allow for blogging outside of work and school. So we once again return to the Fast and Furious franchise, with the sixth entry that, for lack of a snappier alphanumeric title, is simply Fast and Furious 6. Despite everything I’ve heard about Fast Five being the turning point of the franchise from small-timer to blockbuster, this sixth film feels even more like a watershed entry, transitioning from a series I’ve largely tolerated thus far to a movie I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Fast Five ended with the “shocking” reveal that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s girlfriend killed offscreen in the fourth film, was still alive, which wasn’t so shocking for me, since I had seen her in the trailers for the last three movies. (One of the perks of waiting to get into a series until late in its popularity.) Now the promise of his lost love, as well as clemency for past crimes, convinces Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew to join Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in stopping a criminal mastermind named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who has recruited the amnesiac Letty into his own team of mercenaries.

Beyond the destructive action, Fast Five’s greatest pleasure was how it brought together so many characters from past films, with Fast and Furious 6 doing the same. The whole team is back, from Paul Walker to Tyrese Gibson to Gal Gadot. Well, those two Spanish guys are absent, but who remembers their names anyway? The main difference, and the one that made me enjoy 6 more than 5, is that Dom and his roadworthy companions finally get to be the good guys. They’re not plotting to steal millions or drag racing illegally; they are pitted against a less moral version of themselves, trying to save the world with redemption and a chance at normalcy on the line. While Walker’s Brian O’Conner was a good cop undercover at the beginning, the truth is that Dom and his buddies were little more than small-time crooks with insane automotive skills, who eventually ended up turning Brian into a wanted man as well. They’ve been the protagonists of this series thus far but rarely unqualified heroes, and that’s what this sixth film finally makes them.

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The amnesia subplot with Letty may seem like a soap opera cliché to retcon the fourth film, but it’s not unwelcome. In fact, Dom’s attempts at convincing Letty of their former life together add much-needed heart to a story where there’s little interest in developing any of the other already established characters. Luke Evans makes a decent baddie, if only because he and his cronies actually prove to be more than a match for Dom’s team, and the action manages to one-up even the safe scene from Fast Five, particularly an outrageous chase involving a tank. By the time of the final set piece, which includes what has to be the world’s longest runway, I could tell this was my favorite film yet in this crazy car-themed series. It’s also the only action franchise I can imagine featuring the main characters saying a genuine prayer together, which again rings truer now that they’re not closet criminals. It even ends with a cliffhanger that both builds hype for the next installment and clears up a bit of confusion surrounding the series timeline, messily but well enough. For the first time, I’m actually looking forward to the next Fast and Furious film.

Best line: (Owen Shaw) “You know, when I was young, my brother always used to say, “Every man has to have a code.” Mine: Precision. A team is nothing but pieces you switch out until you get the job done. It’s efficient. It works. But you? You’re loyal to a fault. Your code is about family. And that’s great in the holidays, but it makes you predictable. And in our line of work, predictable means vulnerable. And that means I can reach out and break you whenever I want.”   (Dom) “At least when I go, I’ll know what it’s for.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

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