Released: 17th May
Seen: 20th May
The Fast and the Furious franchise has developed something of a reputation over the years. At first, that reputation was that these were the films to see cool car tricks and hot women in skimpy outfits, maybe with a little bit of a heist thrown in for dramatic tension. Now the Fast and Furious movies are where you go to see physics be violently pegged by a souped-up automobile powered by the laws of “Fuck you, this looks cool”. It’s somewhat of a dramatic shift over the years but it’s honestly been for the best, the franchise was kind of dull and boring in the beginning and now it’s almost impossible not to salivate in anticipation for what insanely stupid thing is going to be done next behind the wheel of a car.
It’s a reasonable expectation, in this franchise at least, to go into the film and see cars fly and do things that cars can’t do. Do you want to see a car drive through three skyscrapers one after another? This franchise has you covered. Want to see two cars play a game of chase with a giant safe that should probably have caused both cars to stop dead in their tracks? This franchise brings you that. Would you like to see a car strap rockets to the sides and fly into space, somehow not killing everyone inside the car? That was the climax of the last damn movie, this franchise has officially hit “We sent them into space” levels of insanity and as any horror franchise will tell you, that’s the moment the franchise stops being viable… and I worry that might be the case here.
Fast X presents the main cast of the franchise with a new foe to stand up against, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa) who is the son of the man that the crew stole the safe from back in Fast Five. For those who don’t remember, that man died and Dante was injured (this is presented with a mix of old footage and some new stuff to slip Momoa in there) and now Dante has decided to take out the man he blames for the death of his father, one Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel). This leads to such things as a massive chase through Rome, a trip to a secret black site where people are locked up and hidden away, several more explosions and car chases… it’s a late-stage Fast & Furious movie, you should pretty much know what follows that very basic setup. Throw in appearances from everyone in the ever-expanding Fast & Furious phonebook and you have approximately half of a movie.
Once again, as with pretty much all of these films, the plot and character names in Fast X don’t actually matter. Sure you could try and parse out the details of every relationship and plot line between each character and once again the attempt to be serious in this franchise is absolutely adorable but no one gives a fuck. No one has EVER given a fuck, if you find someone who actually cares about the backstory of any character in the Fast & Furious franchise you should run away because they are weird and creepy. This is not a character piece, no one here is doing anything interesting enough to be considered a character (OK one person is but we will get to him in a bit), Fast X is a film where notable action stars get to do some cool action scenes and we watch cars blow up for a few hours because the lizard part of our brains needs stimulation every now and then.
In terms of just raw stimulation, Fast X delivers the absolute bare minimum that you would expect from this franchise at this point. Yes, in this case, the bare minimum can include a gigantic bomb rolling down the streets of Rome heading towards the Vatican, that’s mild for this franchise (To paraphrase Nick Fury “Bitch please, they’ve been to space”). Every time Fast X does a big fun set piece filled with cars crashing and explosions it’s undeniably fun. The catch is the bar has been set so insanely high (SPACE!!!!) that it’s almost hard to get to that level again. You can blow up as many cars as you want, I have seen these people outrun a nuclear submarine while driving on the ice so you’re going to have to do better. Instead, Fast X just plays variations on classic scenes from the franchise, action scenes we’ve seen before but this time they’re not well edited and in a slightly different location which makes them different somehow… I guess.
Maybe some of these scenes could work if the majority of the cast fit together but this cast is split into three distinct groups. There are the actual good actors, the people with enough pure charisma that it works out for them, and then there’s the people who just kind of look like action stars so they fit in here. The undeniable worst element of the film is Vin Diesel who is just not a good actor, never really has been and he certainly isn’t here (Sorry, the best thing he’s done was say variations of “I Am Groot”). He’s meant to basically hold everything together but he’s just not able to emote, and it’s especially cruel to make him act beside Oscar Winners Rita Moreno or Helen Mirren who barely have anything to do and still act circles around him. It’s honestly a chore whenever he’s on-screen delivering the standard “Family” monologue that this film seems to think is profound. Apparently, no one has told the writers that we all have been making fun of the “Family” thing for years now, they still think it’s a serious topic that works for them.
Do you know what scenes work though? Any scene where Jason Momoa turns up to do what can only be described as a queer-coded Joker performance. Every single frame that has Jason Momoa anywhere near it is absolute gold, he’ll curtsy while setting off explosions, do a ballet dance before climbing onto a helicopter, and paint the toenails of dead men who he keeps around to talk to while his hair is up in buns. It’s a hyper-manic performance that can only happen when someone lets an actor off the leash to do anything that they want. In this case, Momoa has made himself into a camp icon that he just slipped into one of the most masculine series on the planet, it’s almost subversive in a way and so hyper fem that it risks being offensively queer-coded but Momoa is so into it and so completely committed to the bit that it’s endearing. He carries Fast X with ease, every scene that he isn’t in suffers dramatically because it can’t meet his energy. He is the thing that somehow tops “We drove a car into space”, but there is no way that’s going to last.
At the start of this review, I mentioned that this was half of a movie and that’s because it is, the film has a serious cliffhanger that makes it clear they’re building to something for part 11 which might be where this train has to stop. Barring an actual nuclear explosion or Time Travel being put in the next film, they aren’t going to top what they did in part 9 and unless you can find more people willing to go as insane as Momoa goes then this franchise is going to start running on fumes. The charisma and charm of the main cast can only do so much, and some of them barely have enough of that left in the tank. The one thing this franchise can’t afford to do is repeat itself or be even a little sensible, either one of those things is a kiss of death and it feels like this might be the start of the downhill trip for this series.
Fast X is mostly fine for what this franchise is asked of, things blow up while dramatic music plays and a bunch of cars do burnouts and hard left turns while dramatic music plays which is basically all that anyone should expect… except now the franchise has gone so insane that this one feels like a step-down, and a pretty serious step down at that. There’s a lack of energy and fun that just permeates the entire film, only being brought back to life because of one delightful nutbag who delivers one of the most fun performances cinema has seen in a long time. Come for Momoa, stay for a few cool explosions but don’t expect this to be anything more than just OK.
One thought on “Fast X (2023) – Slow Down!”
I miss the days when it was actually just about the cars. Vin Diesel has got to be one of the worst ‘actors’ – using that term really loosely – that has ever existed. But ya know, I hear he’s a really nice guy so I just let it roll.. but his are the only parts where the whole theater laughs when he tries to be serious.. except it’s not with him..it’s at him. And yet, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. and so it goes. Jason Momoa channeling his inner Jack Nicholson was pretty fun. 🙂
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