“Father, thank you for the gathering of friends…” – Roman, Furious 6
The fact that this movie ends with a prayer is kind of cute, but ultimately ridiculous. However, Fast and Furious 6 is pretty much all about ridiculous, from the raucous “tank chase with mid-air overpass rescue” and the “cars taking down a cargo plane” ending, this movie pretty much owns the definition “over the top” (or perhaps co-owned with an arm-wrestling Sylvester Stallone). The end of this second trilogy is a lot of fun, although I still think Fast 5 may have been a little bit more, with its Rock/Diesel throw-down and the vault-dragging climax. However, just because a movie has about as much plot as a hick-ilicious demolition derby doesn’t mean the storytellers haven’t stuck in at least one narrative nugget to chew on, and it turns out Furious 6 focuses on one of those timeless truths that’s as tasty as a Torretto family barbecue.
“You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do.” – Dominic Torretto
You only need to see the trailer to know that – somehow – Michelle Rodriguez’s character Letty has returned from the grave, working with Owen Shaw’s group of car thieves who represent a dark contrast to Torretto’s car-racing, con-artist crew. Even though Letty doesn’t exhibit any desire to return (and even when she shoots Dom) the team keeps striving to find out what has set their friend on this path, and how to bring her back to the family and love she once had. They don’t give up on her, which stands out when one of Shaw’s crew falls in the fray, and we see a very different set of ethics and team dynamics.
“If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” – Matthew 18:12-13
Dom doesn’t have to leave his other sheep, but actually assembles the Fellowship of the Fast and Furious to go after their stray, determined to sacrifice all to keep the family together. The difference between Torretto and Shaw comes into focus when they have the requisite verbal face-off: Shaw clearly articulates that he’s all about “precision” whereas Dominic is all about “family”. Shaw holds to that merciless code we see in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies: those who fall behind are left behind.
“This code you live by makes you predictable. In our line of work predictable makes you vulnerable. I can reach out and break you any time I want.” – Owen Shaw
Shaw sees Torretto’s devotion as a liability: that friends and loyalty only slow down or inhibit the end goal. He views his team as interchangeable and replaceable parts – like a car engine – that he can swap without care or remorse in pursuit of his destination. They are tools for his mission, means to his ends, and nothing more. Torretto represents the opposite, someone who sees his friends as fellow passengers on the way toward their destination, not simply expendable servants but valued and beloved friends.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…” – John 15:15
We see Letty shocked and appalled when Shaw, in a tank, begins running over random cars – with occupants – on the freeway. She’s been Shaw’s servant, and although he employs congenial conversation and appeals to their relationship, it’s clear he doesn’t regard anyone as his friend, and that his servants don’t really know the methods he’ll stoop to (or even the clear ends of their work). On the other hand, Dom is willing to lay down his life, while Brian risks incarceration (a lifetime of separation from his wife and child) to reconcile a relationship and repair the community they’ve built together over six films (and several thousand wrecked automobiles). Their lives, their fortunes, and the goal of engineering a desired outcome is clearly secondary to proper loyalty, respect, and love. For Letty, and the viewer, it comes down to 3 big questions:
Which crew would you rather be on?
Are you valued by those in authority over you, or are you simply tools for their purposes?
If you’re in a position of leadership, how do you treat your crew?
As furious as this film purports to be, the film wraps up serenely with characters gathered in a simple home, enjoying backyard barbecue and the company of true friends, breaking bread together. Unlike the wreckage littered across the road in these movies, I don’t think this is an accident. Perhaps this franchise has flourished because of more than just fast cars, but how fast friends are forever, seeking to emulate the brotherly love and devotion found in the words and example of Jesus Christ.