I begin my list with “Fast & Furious 6” not as a tribute to the late Paul Walker but strictly on its merits: this is the best popcorn movie of the year (edging out the adrenaline rush of “World War Z”). The original cracked my top ten in 2001 with its heart-racing street racing and Crayola box of souped-up hot rods. Under the aegis of director Justin Lin, “FF6” continues to provide phenomenal value for your movie-going dollar: two hours of pulse-pounding excitement, gravity-defying stunts, and globetrotting fun, made with wit and humor in a spirit of easy camaraderie that extends to the audience.
None of the cast has much of a career outside of these silly pictures, or needs one, a happy fate that has the liberating effect of letting them settle into their characters, take potshots at one another (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson in particular get a lot of laughs out of their byplay), and enjoy the ride. One thing I’ve always liked about the series is that the women are every bit as smart, strong and tough as the men, often more so. There’s an unforced quality to the films’ inclusiveness and polyglot internationalism that makes them deserving smash hits abroad and at home.
“Fast and Furious” is the best action franchise going precisely because it’s bigger than any one player. There’s no reason Walker’s tragic passing should sound its death knell; he would want – we all want – the show to go on.