Sometime during the previous Fast movie, a revelation dawned on me: These movies defy criticism. They flip a giddy middle finger to any intelligent analysis. After all, that installment had Luda and Tyrese launching into space aboard a rocket-mounted Pinto. The franchise didn’t just jump the shark. It soared above all the sharks on the planet, from 100 miles in orbit. Amazingly, this series once started as a quaint B-flick about punk kids drag racing for pink slips. Now, it’s unadulterated horse puckey that makes Tom and Jerry look frighteningly real. And yet, I know my criticisms will bounce off these movies, like bullets plunking against Superman. To be Fast and Furious is to confound all intelligent thought.
Still, let me trudge onward: The remainder of this review will assume you’ve wallowed in the creative squalor of the previous nine douchebag epics. If not, head on over to Youtube and watch 20 hours of that kid yodeling in a Walmart. Your time will be better spent. Anyway, Fast X (say the letter instead of the Roman numeral, and the title sounds like a laxative) kicks off right after Fast 9. The gang has assembled in Dom’s (Vin Diesel) backyard for another round of ribs and cervezas. They clink bottles and toast la familia. They hug and press their foreheads together. Ermagerd, you guys–I promised myself I wouldn’t cry! Seriously, if the movie was just two hours of the cast chowing barbecue and pounding lagers, I would’ve awarded it two more full stars.
Alas, ’twas not to be. You know when everything’s perfect, and everyone’s shooting dewey-eyed looks across the picnic table, the peace is about to be shattered. War arrives in the form of Cipher (Charlize Theron), who stumbles into Dom and Letty’s (Michelle Rodriquez) house, wounded and gasping. Turns out, there’s somebody even worse out there, and he’s coming straight for Dom.
DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!!!
That devil takes the form of Dante (Jason Momoa). He’s the son of a Brazilian drug lord who the gang capped in Fast Five. Dante’s been stewing for five whole movies, and now he’s ready to shred Dom’s family into tatters. He dupes the team to a job in Rome, and begins to pick them off, one at a time.
If you’ve ridden this rickety roller coaster before, you know what that flimsy little plot buys you: Big action scenes, none of which have any basis in reality; clunky, formulaic dialogue, which also has no basis in reality. Lots of blathering about family, replete with people gently touching each other’s hearts and softly sighing.
And lots of long-lost relatives. I swear, this franchise dredges up more unknown siblings and children than anything this side of General Hospital. This time, we get Tess (Brie Larson), daughter of Mr. Nobody, the spymaster from previous installments. She doesn’t buy into Dante’s machinations, and offers aid to Dom’s team. And there’s Isabel (Daniela Melchior), the sister of Dom’s late love interest from Fast Five. Or Six. Ah, screw it–whatever. We also meet Abuelita Toretto (Rita Moreno, an EGOT-winner), Dom’s grandmother. This is after we were introduced to Jakob (John Cena), his estranged brother, in the last film. Fast X chucks so many characters at the screen, you eventually just have to shrug and go with it.
Or not. I won’t mince words: These movies are spiritually exhausting, with each one worse than the one before it. And I grew up during the heyday of knucklehead action movies. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Point Break rank amongst my very favorites. Yeah, those flicks were looney, but they still kept one foot on solid ground. Martin Riggs and John McClane had actual flaws and vulnerabilities, making them easy to root for. When they fought, we felt genuine suspense. Their action scenes had a touch of the fantastical, but they had just enough realism to suspend our disbelief.
So, don’t get it twisted: I’m not asking for molecular authenticity. A movie doesn’t even have to obey our laws of physics. It just has to set to some kind of ground rules, and then stick to them. Not one moment of Fast X rings true. If a character can drive down an exploding dam, hop out of a burning race car, fall twenty feet through plate glass, get shot multiple times, only to brush themselves off and keep fighting, then nothing means anything. There are no stakes, and therefore no suspense. And that’s to say nothing of this franchise’s habit of killing characters off, only to wheel them back out a few movies later. Ultimately, the result is a big, luxurious yawn.
Yet, for a few brief moments, X gonna give it to ya. Rodriguez has a great fight scene with a rival character, with more emotion than all the rest of the movie combined. Cena adds new dimension to Jakob, including some cute interplay with Little B (Leo Abelo Perry), Dom’s son. Finally, Larson injects some much-needed smarts and sass, even though she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. Give her a better screenwriter, and I’d be down for spinoff film.
Still, while my writing may be magnificent, it doesn’t really matter. F11 and F12 are already on the way. (Spoiler: This movie ends with a godforsaken cliffhanger, if you even care at that point.) Hopefully, Dom and gang will fly a Dodge Challenger to the center of the universe and blow up a Death Star. Anything less will be a disappointment. In the meantime, there aren’t enough Coronas and burnt ends in the world to make anything about Fast X genuinely entertaining.
141 min. PG-13. In theaters and on demand.