MAY 28, 2023

“The days where one man behind the wheel of a car can make a difference are over.”

— Aimes (Alan Ritchson)

In the age where successful television series like “Succession” and “Barry” are going out while it still feels like there are plenty of stories to be told, “Fast X” has worn out its welcome a few times over. At this point, you get what you get and don’t get upset about the Vin Diesel Verse, where the only thing that ever stays dead is physics. Unfortunately, “Fast X” falls short of most of its predecessors. Not only do the graphics look half-baked, but the acting across the board feels painfully dull, and there has yet to be any character development since Paul Walker passed away. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) are still bickering, Dominic (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are still hopelessly in love, and the family still gathers around a makeshift table for barbeques in the backyard.

There’s a serene, glossed-over look to the opening scenes where Abuelita Toretto (Rita Moreno) talks about what else, the importance of family. They cheer, hug, and look over production stills of past movies, leaving one wondering who could have been taking those photos. At this point, if you haven’t reacquainted yourself with the entire series, a few things start to get muddied. For instance, it takes a moment of adjustment to remember whose kids are whose and who’s beefing with who. There’s a scene where two men come face to face and begin fighting, and you think, haven’t they already settled their disagreements?

Jason Mamoa as the retconned villain, Dante Reyes, feels different, but it doesn’t work. On the one hand, the previous villains have all been super serious, with Charlize Theron and John Cena offering a narrow range in their performances. So Mamoa’s wisecracks and joyful glee in causing destruction is a welcomed change. However, they make his character so strange that it borders on being comical in the wrong way (i.e., having a spa day with corpses). The silly dynamic does pose as an antithesis to Diesel’s brooding Dominic. Still, it would have worked better if they acknowledged that this guy was getting on his wrong side without having Vin say “family” repeatedly.

Some other newcomers are Isabel (Daniela Melchior), a street car racer in Rio who has deeper ties to the family; Aimes (Alan Ritchson), who has taken over Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) agency and has his sights set on bringing down Dominic and his crew; and Tess (Brie Larson), Mr. Nobody’s daughter and ally to the team. Isabel feels the most fully formed of these new characters, but making her a part of the extended family is a slight cause for sighing. Aimes has his moments, with Ritchson filling the void left by Dwayne Johnson.

A bigger problem throughout the film is its fractured storytelling. Feeling more like a television episode than a feature film, with the team split up through most of the movie, and the editing jumps from group to group in a way that fails to flow. The action cut to a different scene a few times, and I wondered why they would cut there. Some of the storylines felt completely unnecessary, with the road trip between Dominic’s brother, Jakob (John Cena), and his son, Little B (Leo Abelo Perry). John Cena’s character is an enormous departure from his days as the big bad in the previous installment. He was a completely different character. Their exploits offer the most unbelievable circumstances in an already improbable film, only to have them almost immediately found upon arriving at their destination.

The other storyline that felt jarring was between Letty and Cipher (Charlize Theron) in a black site prison. It offers one of the highlight battles of the film, but the whole thing felt like a set-up for the next movie (which there will be two now) rather than paying off anything in this movie. Even the storyline involving Roman, Tej, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) felt unnecessary, as they spend most of the film trying to get back to Dominic. It also felt like a way to shoehorn in several cameos, including one of the returning Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

Trim the fat and let the visual effects thoroughly bake, and “Fast X” could have been one of the franchise’s best. The idea of exploring the fallout of Dominic’s missions is an exciting one. Marvel used this story element to entice me on several occasions. But the idea that a villain gets spawned from Dominic’s collateral damage is not new, as we saw with Deckard Shaw, who avenged his brother’s death. So even the element that the creators are hanging their hats on, being the most significant divergence from the franchise thus far, is also a recycled one.

Amping up toward the finale, what these films need now are stakes. People need to die and stay dead, an idea that seems foreign, as shown by the end of the film and after-credits sequence. The team needs to face actual challenges. There’s a moment when Tej finds out all their money is gone, and for a brief moment, I wondered how they might get around without unlimited money, only for the situation to be immediately solved. Tess tells Dominic there’s no way to find Letty, and in the next scene, she’s standing in front of her. There’s nowhere these people can go without being discovered almost instantaneously. Everything goes according to plan, and injuries only occur if it serves the plot.

These also need to be standalone films. “Fast X” doesn’t work on its own. Borrowing from Marvel again, the ending leaves things on a cliffhanger so big that it’s laughable. Hopefully, Louis Leterrier and the team behind the film get the memo about better editing and steering away from the lousy television cutting of this film. If they can turn some of these things around, it might help this franchise stick to the landing.

May 19, 2023

Louis Leterrier

Dan Mazeau
Justin Lin
Zach Dean

by Gary Scott Thompson

Universal Pictures

(for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material)

141 minutes

Stephen F. Windon

Brian Tyler

Dylan Highsmith
Kelly Matsumoto
Laura Yanovich
Corbin Mehl

Vin Diesel
Michelle Rodriguez
Tyrese Gibson
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
John Cena
Nathalie Emmanuel
Jordana Brewster
Sung Kang
Scott Eastwood
Daniela Melchior
Alan Ritchson
Helen Mirren
Brie Larson
Rita Moreno
Jason Statham
Jason Momoa
Charlize Theron

Neal H. Moritz
Vin Diesel
Justin Lin
Jeff Kirschenbaum
Samantha Vincent

$340 million

Saturday, May 27, 2023
Regal Valencia

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