A few entries in the series ago, I’d have probably said you already know if Fast X is for you. But things seem a bit different now; the Fast and Furious movies have gotten more ridiculous as they’ve gone along, and while it’s hard to top the kid-in-a-candy-store hilarity of two members of Dominic Toretto’s “family” flying a car through space in F9, Fast X certainly tries. I won’t lie; this isn’t a good movie, and if you hate the series, you’ll have plenty of ammunition to make jokes till the next one premieres. I’m not a huge fan myself, so I rolled my eyes and laughed at some of the absurdities. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained, at least by parts of this silly film, and I can’t hate it.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is once again enjoying the quiet life with wife Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez) and son Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). But an old enemy warns him of a new, even bigger threat just as his sidekicks go off on a mission of their own, and suddenly Dom and Lettie are back in action, facing down a vengeance-crazed lunatic named Dante (Jason Momoa).
The best thing about Fast X is that, outside of the first gag-inducing fifteen minutes or so (not including a recap of Fast Five that establishes the new bad guy), it’s never boring. The movie is stuffed to the gills with action, and that’s a good and a bad thing. It’s good because these movies only work when they’re moving at a pace fast enough to make you forget how poorly plotted they are. The downside is that the action scenes are so complex, constantly heaping more challenges and twists, that they become difficult to follow. So many new elements are added that you start backtracking in your head to remind yourself of who’s doing what and why. It doesn’t help that the setup is rushed through so quickly that you can barely recall why everyone is where they are. But that’s the double-edged sword for a movie like this; the explanations are shaky at best, so throwing explosions and car crashes at the audience is the only option.
But those action scenes are pretty cool. I got swept up in the car chases of Fast X, particularly the climax. They’re long, but they don’t feel like it, and while the increasing complications can be a bit confusing at times, they keep things from getting tiresome and make for some interesting set pieces. An early one in Rome involves Dom having to do more geometry than you imagine he probably could on his best day; it’s goofy and not believable for a moment, but it manages to involve you despite its shortcomings. These sequences are filmed well, too, which isn’t a surprise since the director is Louis Leterrier; there’s plenty of energy in each, aiding in the film’s relentless pace. There is, however, too much CGI and, more importantly, too much obvious CGI. Certain moments are too cartoonish to pass muster, and they pull you out of the ride, which hurts the movie.
The plot also hurts the movie because it’s so unbelievable the script must’ve been written in crayon. Fast X begins with a simple enough premise: an evil mastermind wants revenge on Dom and his crew, so he sets traps for them to start ruining their lives bit by bit. The problem is that there are so many characters at this point that each has to be given something to do, and on top of that, the script adds more and more characters who also need time to establish themselves. The result is a strange mix of superfluous scenes that could easily have been cut and things happening in the dumbest way possible to move the story along. How does Dom find out the CIA is after him? Someone with no way of knowing that tells him because it’s her sole purpose for being in the film. How does Dom get from one country to the other when every law enforcement and intelligence agency in the world is hunting him? The movie cuts to him being in that country, and that’s pretty much that.
As Fast X goes on, things get even more outlandish, to the point where it essentially becomes a science fiction film, with some of the tech looking too advanced for Star Trek, let alone a race car movie. When characters need to get out of a particular situation, some new space-age doohickey suddenly becomes a thing, and nobody even seems impressed by it. A “Don’t take this too seriously” attitude can only get you so far once you’re instantly healing wounds with lasers. There are more plot issues I can’t get too far into, but one of the bigger problems for the entire franchise is that these films have no stakes anymore, and Fast X continues that tradition and is much prouder of it than it should be. They’ve already gotten to the point where no one feels like they’re in any danger, but Fast X is worried you might have forgotten that, so it reminds you in the most egregious ways possible.
Fast X does have a secret weapon, though: Jason Momoa. He is easily the most engaging part of the film, and his Dante Reyes is one of the best action movie villains in a long time – albeit with a caveat. When he first shows up, he’s a force to be reckoned with, a ruthless killer and a devious mastermind who’s planned his revenge in painstaking detail. But he’s also a lot of fun, and Momoa gives Dante an animated personality that reminded me of some of the great villains of 80s and 90s action movies. He’s a blast to watch in action, and he’s so much more interesting than the heroes. Then, about an hour into the film, he has this weird personality transplant and feels like a completely different person; it’s such an out-of-left-field decision that it’s jarring. But then, once a couple of scenes are over, he’s back to the first guy, like those middle scenes never happened. Based on some comments Momoa made, I think this was a sort of compromise to let the actor do some oddball things he wanted to do with the character. But regardless, Momoa is great.
The rest are a mixed bag. I don’t find Dom and his “family” compelling, and Fast X doesn’t change my mind. They’re corny and flat, slinging bad jokes at each other and having phony arcs that don’t make sense or really amount to anything. John Cena is an exception; he’s pretty funny in his scenes, possibly because he’s mostly removed from the main group. My man Jason Statham is essentially making a cameo, though he does get to kick some ass, and I suspect he’ll have more to do next time. And Charlize Theron returns as Cipher, the evil overlord of the series; I don’t want to say too much about her role, but while she’s good in this movie, I don’t like where I think her character is headed. As for new additions, Brie Larson is fine, Daniela Melchior is bland, Rita Moreno is little more than a prop, and all three could have been lifted right out of the movie.
What does all this add up to in the end? I think, ultimately, it’s a bad movie that’s more fun than it should be, poorly written but often technically proficient, with boring heroes and a terrific villain, action scenes that thrill despite their shortcomings, and an energy that compensates for some problems while creating others. Fast X is a hodgepodge, to be sure, but it’ll keep you entertained… probably.