THERE was a time, somewhere near the start of this millennium, where it seemed that Vin Diesel would be the biggest movie star on the planet.
It was a crazy time. Foot and mouth disease was on everyone’s mind and Windows XP was on the horizon.
Diesel scored back-to-back-to-back hits with Pitch Black, xXx and the original The Fast and The Furious and his card seemed marked. He was the new millennium’s action hero.
His appearances in a Spielberg film (Saving Private Ryan) and a real drama (Boiler Room) gave him a cachet with serious film fans.
Since then, however, it just hasn’t happened for Diesel. The follow-up to Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, was a commercial and critical bomb, his attempt to return to drama, Find Me Guilty, was underseen and under-rated.
Only when he returned to the franchise he had launched, was his career reignited.
Having mostly sat out two sequels (he makes an uncredited cameo in Tokyo Drift), Diesel re-teamed with Paul Walker for the imaginatively titled Fast & Furious.
That was unexpectedly decent and led to 2011’s formula-busting Fast 5.
Heading to Brazil and adding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the whole franchise was reborn, seemingly knowingly becoming bigger, brasher and sillier.
Fast & Furious 6, the gang have retired after their South American heist exploits and are dotted around the world living luxurious lifestyles on their ill-gotten gains.
The only one still at the coalface is The Rock’s Agent Hobbs.
He is still a DSS agent, but he is now joined by UFC fighter Gina Carano.
Together, the tough guy/girl combo must catch Owen Shaw, a scenery chewing English baddie who has a crew which is described as being the “evil twins” of Diesel’s crew.
So, of course, they use due process and a lengthy surveillance operation to piece together a case that will stand up in court.
Of course they don’t! Instead, they go around the world recruiting a bunch of internationally wanted criminals who can drive cars really fast and, um, furiously – because the US government just doesn’t have the manpower to take down criminals.
Anyway, ludicrous set up aside, the gang gets back together, on the promise of complete exoneration.
And, for Diesel’s Dom Torreto, the fact that his once-dead ex-girlfriend is now being held captive by Shaw, thanks to a handy dose of amnesia (seriously).
As the action shifts to the streets of Europe, the confined nature of the London streets does little for the racing action and the constant darkness pervades the whole film.
Fortunately, the gang is soon transported to a sunny Spanish highway, where a tank, muscle cars and speed abound.
It is here that the film hits the highest notes, revelling in what made Fast 5 so enjoyable.
The problem is that Shaw, revealed to be a Moriarty like presence in the gang’s lives, is just not a good bad guy.
Luke Evans tries manfully, but the material is too weak and the reversion of Johnson and Diesel to friends removes an air of friction that the film sorely needs.