Film Review: Fast X
Director: Louis Leterrier
In Theaters: 05.19
Fast X pulls off the line with a cold open that is instantly recognizable to fans of the convoluted franchise: Two cop cars tow a bank vault and barrel through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. We’re seeing the dramatic finale from the first “new” Fast & Furious film, Fast Five (and arguably one of the franchise’s most iconic moments).
However, something is different this time. The Fast Five villain, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) isn’t alone; this time he is accompanied by his son Dante (Jason Momoa), whose existence has never previously been established (in this franchise any past event can be altered in service of the current film’s plot). Dante witnesses his father’s demise at the hands of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, promising to one day get vengeance. It’s family versus family yet again.
Dante adopts his father’s mantra: “Never accept death where suffering is owed.” He stretches this idea to the extreme as he tries to punish Dom and all his associates for any previous sins. Dante’s actual endgame becomes hazy, but this is easy to forgive as Momoa’s performance is one of Fast X’s greatest strengths. He displays his impressive range as an actor and dives headfirst into this villainous role with glee, chewing the scenery to a pulp. Draped in flowing clothing and sporting colorful nails, Dante is dripping with flamboyant energy and at one point he even says, “there’s too much masculinity in the world right now.” While this queer coding is likely to spark much online debate, none can accuse Momoa of playing it safe.
Unfortunately, that cannot be said about the rest of the film, which is ambitious but aimless. Fast X is simply a permutation of previous Fast & Furious films, almost as if it were constructed by a YouTube highlight-reel algorithm. Cars are wielded as weapons, human beings are tossed around like action figures and constant needle drops abound. It’s still as fun as ever, but we’ve seen it all before.
There’s a lot going on in Fast X, but nothing substantial happens. Of the half-dozen or so plotlines in Fast X, only one or two of them have bearing on the overarching plot. Most of the screen time is instead devoted to a sort of MCU-inspired fan service, pouring an ungodly amount of references to previous films down audiences’ throats. It’s a who’s who of the Fast & Furious universe, with even bit characters getting their moment in the limelight. Unfortunately, the film buckles under this weight. The ambitious scope robs Fast X of the time to enjoy the camaraderie that made previous films so entertaining. In particular, the film has no idea what to do with the secondary family characters, especially Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), who spend a majority of the film wandering and lobbing half-baked quips at each other.
Of all the things missing from Fast X, perhaps the most surprising is cars! There are only a handful of action sequences involving vehicles, and most aren’t remarkable enough to impress. The franchise has never suffered from its indulgence in extravehicular activities, but once the fistfights start outnumbering the car chases, Fast X loses that special Fast & Furious touch. Even the film’s strongest and most cohesive driving sequence—an explosive chase through the streets of Rome involving a massive, bowling ball–shaped nuke—is a thinly-guised remix of the aforementioned vault chase that invites direct comparison to the far superior Fast Five.
Given the recent announcement that Fast X is the first in a trilogy to conclude the franchise, I expected cliffhangers. However, the abruptness with which Fast X closes feels like hitting a concrete wall at 80 miles an hour. It leaves a sneaking suspicion that the studio could not agree on a firm ending and a strong conclusion could be procrastinated to the next entry. Similar to other franchises that split their finale in multiple pieces (e.g. Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.), Fast X can’t help but feel like a transitional moment, setting up the pieces for things to come.
Hopefully the next Fast installment will be a more engaging, focused film against this uninspired spinning of the wheels. Even given the bumpiness of this ride, I know I will still be there next time. That’s why Fast & Furious is such a success: As one character in this film succinctly puts it, “It’s like a cult with cars.” –Seth Turek
Read more reviews of Fast and Furious movies:
Film Review: F9: The Fast Saga
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