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Fast X (2023) Review: Gasoline-Injected Soap Opera Misses Exit

Fast X (2023) Review: Gasoline-Injected Soap Opera Misses Exit

fast x review

Fast X (still should have been called Fast-10 Your seatbelts) is the latest installment in the Fast & Furious franchise and it is a car wreck.

Fast X rides down the tarmac; engines howling and tires squealing, offering a transfixing spectacle, but it does not tell us why we should care about the driver or his crew. The franchise that famously doubles down on Family refuses to provide screentime to flesh out their characters, inevitably splintering the viewer’s emotional attachment to Dom’s crew.

Enter Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), son of the baddie from Fast Five (2011), manic over revenge for his slain father and the theft of his ill-gotten fortune. Over the course of many brain-numbing action set-pieces, Dante tries to scratch his proverbial itch with his manicured lavender-shaded fingernails.

Topping the action set-pieces of the F&F predecessor flicks is a tough act and Fast X proves it. On one occasion, Dom uses his buffed-out Charger and a swiveling crane to pinball a trundling spherical time bomb away from the Italian landscape and into a river. Such grotesque and needlessly complicated feats of live-action anime dull one’s senses as realization sets in that there is no emotional weight to up the ante. Fear not viewer; death is but a pit-stop in these flicks, pending contractual negotiations.

Weirdly enough, for a franchise centered around motor mayhem, Fast X parades around too many hand-to-hand combat sequences to one’s liking.

The movie splits up the gang into duos and trios; who then proceeds to go on separate quests; thereby rupturing its narrative flow. For example: as Letty and Cipher are about to finish up their story arc, Fast X opts to teleport over to someone else; after a short while this shtick gets old and annoying, courtesy of the quarter-mile-long cast list.

Fast X cramps in more folks than a minivan on a pilgrimage. Asleep at the wheel is Vin Diesel aka Dominic Toretto. Perhaps Fast X is heading in the right direction. The rupture of the narrative into multiple side plots steals runtime away from the lethargic performance of Vin Diesel. His shredded biceps are better at emoting than his face. Moving forward, maybe the franchise could relegate Dom to cameo duties; as the patron saint of vehicular warfare, family, and mumble-growling, who shows up in your enemies’ rear-view mirror if you whisper his name three times.

Jason Momoa’s campy portrayal of the bad guy is a blast of fresh air to a franchise that has begun to take itself too seriously. One instance has him engaged in beauty-parlor chitchat with a couple of his recently killed victims, arranged around an outdoor lounge area, as he casually applies nail polish. Dante Reyes wants to make Dom and his crew suffer for his pain; he will take a detour through a crazy town to get them there.

John Cena, as Toretto’s long-lost brother Jakob, stands out in particular; thanks to his natural charisma and comedic timing. The rest of the swollen cast feels interchangeable, existing purely as navigational guides when the plot requires rerouting.

Considering this is a Fast & Furious installment, the number of cars on display is meh. Dom gets his Dodge Charger, but even there, not a single memorable establishing shot of polished American muscle is served as a treat. Tyrese Gibson’s character Roman Pearce drives the ridiculous chrome gold Lamborghini Gallardo, a car that appears to have been fondled by Midas himself.

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Joining him on the streets of Rome is Hans in a stunning orange-black 1971 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT, arguably the prettiest of the lot. Villainous Dante gets a ’66 Chevrolet Impala, an absolute banger in its purple paint job, set to match his painted fingernails.

There is the obligatory drag race scene, this time set in the blacked-out nightscape of palm tree-studded Rio De Janeiro. Such instances merely serve to remind Fast franchise fans of the better (sigh: simpler) times they had with Dom’s crew, back when they were not Avenger-styled global super warriors. The characters themselves acknowledge that Fast X is but a mass-audience dead ringer of the earlier FF installments. At one point Dante concedes that his globular time-bomb bull-dozing around the streets of Rome is a homage to the incredible third act of Fast Five where b and Brian (rest in peace Paul Walker) are chased by the Brazilian police while towing a multi-ton vault strapped to their Dodge Chargers.

Fast X is blinded by the massive success of the FF Franchise, desperate to hold the viewer’s attention with its birdbrained plot; goading the franchise into narrative alleys too late to back out of. Yet, for all its faults, Fast X pleases all: a fleeting glimpse of a loud roadside hoarding that manages to make you snort at its comic absurdity before it recedes in your rearview mirror in a popcorn-scented afterimage.

Rating: 3/5

 

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