Fast X (United States, 2023)

May 19, 2023
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Fast X Poster

Despite boasting a healthy 141-minute running time, Fast X is not a complete movie. It has a beginning and a middle but no end. Assured that audiences will return like lemmings for future installments of the Fast/Furious series, the filmmakers seemingly felt no compunction about concluding Fast X with a series of cliffhangers, keeping the fates of most of the characters in doubt. Although this probably won’t bother die-hard fans of the franchise, it’s a gamble where more casual viewers are concerned.

Fast X brings little that’s new to a series that has been repeating itself since it went hyperkinetic with installment #4. It’s all action all the time. Yet, for an action sequence to work, something has to be at stake, otherwise it's just sound and fury signifying nothing. In Fast X, there's plenty of noise and CGI (some of it on the dodgy, cheap-looking side) and things crashing and blowing up, but there's never a sense that it means anything. No danger. No peril. It's all loud, visually expressive, and BORING. And that's the core problem. It claims to have characters but that's a lie. It claims to have a storyline but that's a fallacy. There's nothing here. The Emperor has new clothes. It's a big, hollow vat of steaming excess.

Fast X is like a flashy party guest who's initially a lot of fun but stays too long. By the end, they have become tiresome. At this point, there's not much difference between a Fast/Furious movie and a Transformers movie. Both are soulless entities that exist solely to milk the box office. It astounds me that audiences haven't yet tired of this shtick. It has been evident since Paul Walker's untimely death that whatever human element the series had has evaporated, leaving behind...nothing. Still, viewers know all this and, although the box office takings for these films are down more than 50% from the heights reached by the best of the franchise (Furious Seven), this movie is still expected to claim in the $60-70M range (domestic) during its debut weekend.

Fast X opens with a retcon of the climax of Fast Five, inserting a few new characters into repurposed footage from the original film. (This also allows for a Paul Walker cameo without having to resort to any sort of cinematic chicanery.) Turns out that Fast Five’s bad guy, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almedia), had a devoted son named Dante (Jason Momoa) who is injured in the car chase that results in his father’s death. His time for revenge has now come and, in keeping with his clearly impaired mental state, he is determined to inflict maximum pain on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) before killing him. This involves framing Dom and his cohorts for a terrorist attack in Rome, then setting them up one-by-one for slaughter. Dom’s wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is captured and sent to a Black Ops center for interrogation/torture. His son, left in the care of his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and brother, Jakob (John Cena), barely escapes a home raid. A quartet of his friends – Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris ‘Ludcaris’ Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) – find themselves set adrift in London with their bank accounts drained. Like a flamboyant maestro, Dante keeps pushing buttons, leading to a very typical Fast/Furious climax that comes without any kind of resolution. Along the way, new and familiar faces make appearances, including (but not limited to) Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, and Brie Larson. None have screen time to match the credibility they bring to the proceedings.

Although a majority of Fast X creates an aura of sensory overstimulation that quickly loses its impact and turns sleep-inducing, there are a few bright points. Depending on your point-of-view, it’s either amusing or embarrassing to watch four Oscar winners skate through paper-thin roles with minimal screen time. Jason Statham proves that he has more charisma than the entire Fast/Furious gang combined. And Jason Momoa’s explosion of excess proves that he gets how utterly, stupefyingly ridiculous the proceedings are. Instead of frothing at the mouth, he preens and struts and has a great time doing it. That might not be worth a recommendation but it’s at least worth an extra half-star, pushing Fast X out of the garbage end of 2023 feature roster and into the range of bland mediocrity.

This is one of those reviews where I feel like throwing up my hands and saying “Why bother?” With these movies, people no longer expect a good film; they just want to see over-the-top action scenes and catch up with familiar characters, even if those characters are just going through the motions. Rumor has it that Fast X is intended to be the first volume of a three-part story designed to bring the franchise to an end. That’s plenty of time for these old dogs (star Vin Diesel, director Louis Leterrier, co-screenwriter Justin Lin) to learn new tricks but, judging by how close the movies are coming to self-parody, I’m not holding my breath.

Fast X (United States, 2023)

Run Time: 2:21
U.S. Release Date: 2023-05-19
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1