Review: 'Fast X' miles better than the last installment, but franchise running out of gas
The "Fast & The Furious" franchise is really its own thing by this point. If you love these movies, then they can't do much wrong (even if Part 9 tried very hard to do so). With "Fast X" we are now 10 movies in, with over 6 BILLION dollars made worldwide since that first film back in 2001.
The good news is that this latest chapter is leaps and bounds better than the dismal, franchise-worst "F9" (read my review of that film here). But the franchise itself is showing more than just signs of wear-and-tear. It's getting time to pull this one into the junkyard.
As far as "Fast & The Furious" movies go, "Fast X" is exactly what you would want it to be, and I'd rank it in the upper echelon of films in this saga. The main issue is not the laughable, implausible action sequences. Nor is it the bad acting or cheesy dialogue that consistently waxes poetic about the virtues of "family." No, the big problem is how repetitive these movies have become. They have their own formula, and at this point that formula has been run into the ground.
To put it in racing terms, it may be exciting to watch the Daytona 500, with its 500 laps around the track. Watching "Fast X," it feels like we're on lap 5000, and the exhilaration we felt from the earlier laps has all but dissipated.
The best part of "Fast X" - by a mile - is the introduction of Dante (Jason Momoa), who instantly becomes one of the most delicious screen villains this franchise has definitely ever seen. He shows up now - for whatever reason - with a bone to pick with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), and is hellbent on delivering not just revenge. He doesn't want Toretto to just die...that would be too easy. He wants him to suffer.
Momoa plays Dante as a loose, eccentric, blood-thirsty ham. He chews up the scenery and spits it out, smiling. You can just picture director Louis Leterrier telling Momoa to just go for it, and he does. He not only is formidable, but he has more than a few screws loose. He waves his arms around during battle scenes as if he's conducting the mayhem. He paints toenails and carries on conversations with his deceased comrades. In a film franchise dripping with masculinity and machoism, he leans into his effeminate side. It works, and it injects "Fast X" with a much-needed boost of a different kind of energy.
At this stage in the franchise, we don't even know what or why Dominic is so important, or so hated, by so many. Nor does it really matter. Per usual, the film begins by showing us Dom in a state of calm, having barbeques in the backyard with his family. He's teaching his son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry), how to not only drive, but drive like his daddy.
Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) - back from outer space (no, for real) - are still the comic relief, ragging on one another endlessly while Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) rolls her eyes. Fan favorite Han (Sung Kang), who recently returned to the franchise, is still in the background, hanging around. Dom is still romantically tied to Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is still there too, and we briefly get introduced to the matriarch of the family, Abuelita, played by none other than the legendary Rita Moreno.
The character of Brian - portrayed by the late Paul Walker - is still off-camera and reverently spoken about. It's getting harder-and-harder as these movies go on to imagine that Brian just "retired," with all of the shenanigans that are still ongoing. But alas.
Dom's brother, Jakob (John Cena), the once-villainous Cipher (Charlize Theron) and Dom's allies, Queenie (Helen Mirren) and Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) are all involved in the madness. New to the party are Mr. Nobody's daughter, Tess (Brie Larson) and FBI Agent Aimes (Alan Ritchson), both whom are looking for Dom, but for different reasons. A new damsel-in-distress with ties to Dom's past, Isabel (Daniela Melchior) also mixes in. Oh, and there are more than a few surprising cameos by other beloved Fast & The Furious characters (be sure to stay through the end credits) that I won't spoil here.
You may have noticed that I've side-stepped describing any discernable plot, but that's not by accident. "Fast X" has plenty of amazing car chases, and even features a street race. The laws of physics never quite applied to this franchise, but by now, we sort of just go with it. Dom is a cartoon character after all, who can escape any and all peril without suffering a scratch. You either love this sort of goofy action or you loathe it, but I'm betting that - 10 movies in - if you're still following the adventure of Dom and Family, you've suspended your disbelief long, long ago.
You have to wonder how much more they can squeeze out of this. There was a planned 11th chapter that was supposed to be the final installment in the series, but recent rumors are swirling that "Fast X" might be part one of a trilogy of films...a trilogy to cap off the other nine movies that came before.
It's all becoming a bit boring quite honestly. It's a credit to Jason Momoa's performance that he manages to make these leftovers feel like a fresh-cooked meal. "Fast X" is proof that there's still some gas in the tank, but the ride is becoming increasingly bumpy. You can bet that as long as this franchise keeps making money though, they're going to continue to floor it until the wheels come flying off.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime.
Run Time: 2 hours 21 minutes.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa, Alan Ritchson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, John Cena, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, Brie Larson, Leo Abelo Perry, Nathalie Emmanuel.
Directed by Louis Leterrier ("The Takedown," "The Brothers Grimsby," "Now You See Me," "Transporter 2," "Clash of the Titans (2010)").
"Fast X" is in theaters on Friday, May 19th, 2023.
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