Fast X (2023)

by - May 19th, 2023 - Movie Reviews


Goofy First Installment of the Fast Saga’s Climactic Trilogy is Running on Empty

Fast X is the most absurd entry yet in the long-running franchise, and that’s saying something, considering the crew journeyed into outer space in the previous installment, F9: The Fast Saga. But this is 140 or so minutes of pure obnoxiousness. Writers Dan Mazeau (Wrath of the Titans) and series regular Justin Lin (who directed four others) embrace the comic book, anything-goes, Looney Tunes aesthetic established around the time of Fast & Furious 6 and run wild with it. Nothing makes sense. Granted, I’m not sure it is supposed to.

Fast X (2023) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

The time, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his “family” are forced to face off against Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa), the larger-than-life, flamboyantly homicidal son of deceased Brazilian drug lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), the charismatic heavy from Fast Five. Dante’s out for revenge. But he doesn’t just want to kill Dominic and his clan; he wants to make the fast-driving thief turned government superhero suffer. Most notably, he’s after “Little” Brian Toretto (Leo Abelo Perry), and he’s willing to slit every throat standing in his way to get his hands on the child.

I’m not going to try and make sense out of any of this. I mean, if the movie doesn’t care to try and do it, why should I? Just know that Dante’s plan sends Dominic’s clan sprinting across the globe from Brazil to England, from Portugal to even Antarctica. But the dastardly baddie is roughly four steps ahead of every move they make as he tirelessly endeavors to achieve his vengeance against those responsible for his father’s death a decade prior.

Pretty much everyone is back, including Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, John Cena, and Helen Mirren. As for the newcomers, after Momoa, there’s also Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson, Daniela Melchior, and even Rita Moreno. There are massive stunts (mostly involving cars), cartoonish special effects (mostly involving cars smashing things like helicopters and the law of physics), and feats of derring-do (also — you guessed it — mostly involving cars).

Things explode. There are a few narrow escapes. The human body gets thrown around like a pinball and barely gets a scratch. There are gunfights and fistfights galore (not to mention fistfights that turn into gunfights — and vice versa — at the drop of a hat). In short, it’s everything and more that audiences have come to expect from these films, and the more insane they get, the bigger the take at the box office seems to be.

Fast X (2023) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

But when is enough enough? At what point do audiences start to tune out? While Fast X is reported to be the last turn around the track for Dominic Toretto and company, that it has been split into three chapters strikes me as a level of overkill even this goofy series should have steered away from. While I’m sure the story will get more convoluted as things near their conclusion, the simple truth is that there isn’t a lot of meat on this bony carcass. Going the Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame route with all this madness feels to me like a step too far, and the comical cliffhanger ending makes things even worse.

Lin’s decision to step away as director (during the early days of filming, no less) over “creative differences” is noticeable. It’s not that journeyman Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk) isn’t up to the challenge so much as that his focus is more on the visual carnage than the human element. As blatantly melodramatic as the character interactions may be, as inanely convoluted as the mythology has gotten with each new chapter, Lin still maintained an emotional authenticity that was admittedly endearing. That’s not the case here.

Not that Leterrier doesn’t try. There is a focus on Dominic’s relationship with his son Brian, and that’s to be expected. But anything else involving these characters — both old and new — feels pulled from a how-to workbook that could easily have been subtitled “Soap Opera Emotional Theatrics for Beginners.” The director becomes so consumed by the razzle and the dazzle that he appears to forget to give the audience worthwhile reasons to care, and that’s one gigantic chasm no supply of nitrous oxide could help this beaten-up wreck of high-octane lunacy jump across.

Fast X (2023) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

What Fast X does have is Momoa, and he’s extraordinary. The actor knows exactly what kind of movie he is in and precisely what is needed from him. His performance isn’t over the top — it’s ten or eleven steps beyond that. Momoa gobbles up every stitch of scenery. Dante goes from silly to cutthroat to playful to deathly serious at the drop of a hat. The villain oozes psychotic menace out of every pore of his monstrous frame, and I admit I’m curious to see if Momoa can maintain this freakishly high level of titanic villainy for the entirety of this climactic trilogy.

But only slightly. As impressive as the Fast saga’s evolution has been since its inauspicious, small-scale beginnings back in 2001, the unrepentantly mind-numbing stupidity is wearing thin. Old-school Saturday matinee serial cliffhanger be damned, I honestly don’t know if I care to find out how Dominic and company continue their fight against Dante. And considering how meaningless death has become to this franchise, it’s hardly surprising this tank is running perilously close to empty, and I don’t foresee a refill happening anytime soon.

– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

Film Rating: 1½ (out of 4)

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