I have to admit that before watching Fast & Furious 6 for the purpose of this blog I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of its predecessors in the franchise since watching the original The Fast And The Furious at Muirend cinema in 2001 – incidentally my final visit to that southside landmark. It’s not that I didn’t like the film, but my appetite for that particular storyline was satisfied with one instalment and I really just wasn’t that fussed about seeing the sequels. Still, the concept clearly works for many people – 12 years, six films with a seventh in the pipeline, each release going to cinema (not straight to DVD) with a decent amount of fanfare and decent box office returns all support this. Fast & Furious 6 alone reportedly brought in over $695 million worldwide during its big screen outing. Helpfully for out of touch viewers like myself the past 12 years of Fast and Furious action are neatly summarised in a montage of clips during the opening credits of Fast & Furious 6.
This latest chapter begins with the main characters settling down to simpler lives with the money they have made in previous outings, but – as is the case with so many great action movies – being called upon to put their unrivalled driving skills to use in one more job, this time with high stakes for them personally and for the world as a whole.
I would say overall that I enjoyed this movie, but my review probably features praise and criticism in equal measures. The positives include an ensemble cast that work well together – they gel to make a convincing team. There is some good humour too, and in particular Tyrese Gibson as Roman delivers much of this. The film also makes very good use of the London setting, from impressive views of the Shard and the Gherkin glinting in the sunrise to grubby garages under railway arches. It’s a Hollywood production that nearly manages to avoid clichés in portraying London, but lets itself down somewhat on that front with the inclusion of a shamelessly snobbish luxury car salesman who has a distinct whiff of Tim Curry’s Home Alone 2 hotel concierge about him. And sticking with clichéd characters, there’s nothing wrong with Luke Evans’ portrayal of villain Owen Shaw, but are there really as many ex-SAS men that have gone bad as the film industry tends to make out? Other criticisms, which had me smirking rather than frowning, were Vin Diesel’s Dominic and Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty in the most ridiculous stunt I’ve ever seen (look out for the bit on the bridge) and a climactic runway scene in which the runway seems to go on forever. Finally there was a bit too much of “This is who I am”/”This is who we are”/”This is who you are” in the script and if all of the other films are full of that I won’t be rushing to see them.
Fast & Furious 6 is set primarily in London but with action also taking place in locations as varied as Moscow, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Spain. The Spanish segments are set in “Canary Islands, Spain” – perhaps the choice of island is left to the imagination so as not to upset either Gran Canaria or Tenerife (both islands’ authorities are thanked in the credits) by highlighting one over the other – and at a NATO base in Lusitania. A Google search tells me the latter is fictional, and that Lusitania was in fact an ancient Roman Iberian province. Spanish geography issues aside however, what links this blockbuster with Glasgow?
Glasgow doubles for London during certain points of a key car chase scene early in the film – the scenes were shot in the International Financial Services District during late summer 2012. The stunts are impressive, with Metropolitan Police cars being flipped into the air on Cadogan Street and a BMW being launched through the windows of a purpose built office complex on the Broomielaw. None of the principal actors were present for the Glasgow scenes, although that statement may not be entirely true to anyone who considers the cars to be the stars of these movies. Glasgow wasn’t alone in standing in for London, with Liverpool’s Mersey Tunnel taking part in the same chase scene, while London itself doubles for Moscow at the start of the film – the use of MI5’s distinctive headquarters Thames House as a backdrop for the Russian scene is odd given how familiar this building is through other movies and television programmes.
Somewhat disappointing was the omission of Glasgow (and for that matter Liverpool) from the closing credits of the movie. As mentioned above there are plenty of thanks given to the authorities and citizens of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but no mention of the organisations in Glasgow who helped pull part of the film together.