Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!
“Fast X” is the tenth main installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and follows Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) and his crew going on the run after being framed for a terrorist attack (organized by Jason Momoa). Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Rita Moreno, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron, as Louis Leterrier takes over directing duties from Justin Lin., who co-wrote the screenplay before stepping down from directing duties after the first week of filming.
I’m pretty agnostic to the “Fast & Furious” films. I enjoy “Fast Five” and “Furious 7” enough, and the early installments have a nice early 2000s sense of nostalgia, but the recent entries of “F8 of the Furious” and “F9” were so bloated and had become beyond the point of parody, I was ready to write the series off. And while “Fast X” isn’t a breath of fresh air like 5 was or hit the same emotional beats as 7, I found it to be a nice blend of laughing-with and laughing-at, and am willing to stick around for at least one more ride.
One thing that these films have never really had (outside maybe Jason Statham in “Furious 7”) are memorable villains, usually just being content with a stock corrupt businessman or an evil version of Vin Diesel’s macho man Dom. However Jason Momoa (known for “Aquaman”) at least tries to have fun in his villainous role. An interesting blend of Heath Ledger’s plotting Joker and Javier Bardem’s flamboyant Silva in “Skyfall,” Momoa is chewing scenery every chance he gets but also manages to be a bit intimidating. He is clearly trying to be more playful than physically dominating and not get typecast as a meathead, and I think he does a good job in the role.
The rest of the cast ranges from fine to mailing it in, which makes sense since for many members of the cast this is how they keep the lights on at home and they’ve been at it for 20 years. Brie Larson joins the cast and during the dialogue scenes comes off wildly uninterested in being there, but in the action sequences carries her own and actually seems like she’s enjoying herself. Alan Ritchson fills in for Kurt Russell as the government agent tasked with tracking Dom and his team down, and while it’s a thankless nothing role, Ritchson manages to have fun spewing cheesy tough guy lines.
The wow factor of the franchise seems to be running on fumes, but there are a few fun set pieces here. There is a big game of car soccer through the streets of Rome early in the film that I enjoyed, and some of the stunts are impressively staged. The issue is these scenes go on for too long (sometimes nearly 15 minutes) and, as with many blockbusters nowadays, some of the CGI and green screens are *rough*. I’m not sure who told Hollywood execs to stop filming on-location, but it can’t be a cost-saving measure because this thing still cost $340 million. We manage to get a few street races, something that has been lacking in this [checks notes] street racing franchise.
The plot itself is nothing elaborate (it’s less of a “plot” and more circumstances held together by bubblegum and duct tape), though it does what it needs to. I kind of appreciated the return to a straight-forward narrative after the previous four films transitioned from “heist with cars” to “the world is going to end if you guys can’t steal this nuclear weapon from a submarine base in the Arctic.” We jump around from plotline A to B to C, which makes sense when you remember this is the first of two (or three, if you believe Vin Diesel) parts of a finale.
“Fast X” still is far from high art, and I get why it may come off as too stale for some viewers may find it stale or too stupid, because there is an argument to be made for both. However, as someone who was ready and willing to let this series drive off to into the sunset (or off a cliff for all I cared), I was happily pleased with how much enjoyment I found throughout this. The climax is truly unhinged, and the whole film feels like it was fan fiction written by Reddit (with the quality landing somewhere between the sloppy “Rise of Skywalker” and tongue-in-cheek “Scream VI”); if you’ve been riding with these movies since 2001, I don’t think this is where you’re going to suddenly draw the line.
Critics Rating: 6/10