Dedication to one’s family is often played for laughs in movies and TV shows. The father intent on being at every little league and peewee football game is often seen as weak and pathetic by unmarried or childless characters. Moms volunteering for various committees at a child’s school are sometimes portrayed as having an ulterior motive, such as trying to impress the wealthy parent or as a bid for power within the clique of the PTA. This goes both ways as those parents completely uninvolved in their kid’s activities frequently are viewed as slackers and a point of comedic derision. It seems that there’s no pleasing everyone, no matter how involved or hands off parents are. Family has been a big motivator in the various storylines in “The Fast and the Furious” films, except the first three. In the original, Dom says he lives life a quarter mile at a time and when he’s behind the wheel, there’s nothing else, not even family. Since the first film in 2001, the franchise has evolved from a movie about street racers making their money by stealing truckloads of home electronics to a globetrotting group of superspies saving the world in sequel after sequel. At the heart of the later films was Dominic Toretto’s mantra about it all being about family. If you attack one member of his crew, you are attacking his family. Now, in “Fast X,” Dom’s family is facing a threat to every member from a villain that’s lost his family at the hands of Dom and his crew. Thankfully, all the cars are still running and full of nitrous oxide tanks.
Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) is surrounded by all the ones he loves, including Abuelita Toretto (Rita Moreno), for one of the famous family cookouts. After they eat, Roman, Tej and Ramsey (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Nathalie Emmanuel) are headed to Rome on a mission for The Agency to steal a computer chip. Dom is sitting this one out to stay home with Letty and Brian (Michelle Rogriguez and Leo Abelo Perry) and Roman is in charge, much to Tej’ chagrin. That night, Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up bleeding at Dom’s door. She tells him how Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), son of Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), killed during one of Dom’s missions 10 years ago, is looking to exact revenge on Dom by killing everyone in his family/crew then killing Dom. Agents of The Agency show up to take Cipher to one of their black site prisons. The next day, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) arrives to tell Dom and Letty about Cipher’s imprisonment. Dom asks about Roman and his crew as he can’t get in touch with them. Little Nobody doesn’t know what Dom is talking about as they have no operations in Rome. Dom realizes they’ve been sent on a fake mission by Dante and The Agency gets Dom and Letty to Rome to try and save them. Dante takes over the truck carrying not a computer chip, but a massive bomb, drives the vehicle remotely, and releases the bomb trying to blow up the Vatican and frame Dom and his people as terrorists. Dom diverts the bomb into a river, but it still causes death and destruction, putting all of them on the Most Wanted list worldwide. Letty is captured and sent to the same black site prison as Cipher. Dom, Roman, Tej and Ramsey escape, but Dom is separated from the others and Dante has hacked into their bank accounts, leaving them broke. Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson), who also works for The Agency, visits new Agency head Aimes (Alan Ritchson) to argue on Dom and his crew’s behalf, but Aimes is unmoved and puts the full force of The Agency into finding them all. Tess quietly vows to help them on her own. Dom has few options and a scattered crew, and Dante has evil plans for all of Dom’s family.
No one has ever accused the “Fast and Furious” films of being too subtle or logical. The soundtrack is loud, filled with thumping hip hop beats, explosions, screeching tires and the roar of supercharged, NOS-boosted engines. The plot is convoluted, requiring insertion of a new character or two into 2011’s “Fast Five” and the McGuffin of “Furious Seven” from 2015. The laws of physics and gravity are broken regularly, cars and their drivers survive massive crashes and explosions to drive off to the next action scene. Characters make perplexing decisions that puts everyone at risk and Dom still says it’s all for “family.” We’ve seen this all before, perhaps done better in “Fast Seven” with the emotional farewell to the late Paul Walker, but what cannot be said about “Fast X” is it’s boring.
The plot races along, violating the usual filmic speed limit that is in place, so the audience doesn’t get confused about where characters are and what they are doing. In the “Fast and Furious” films, the more audience confusion the better, so no one notices how little sense this all makes. Both the good guys and bad guys predict exactly what the other is going to do and plan accordingly. Fortunately, law enforcement is clueless and always seems to be caught off guard, otherwise none of these films would be more than 10 minutes long.
Director Louis Leterrier just barely manages to keep all the plates spinning while also juggling a dozen balls as the film abruptly cuts from one European locale to a shot of the Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro to Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere, and another of our scattered Toretto family.
No one goes to a “Fast and Furious” film expecting deep introspection and serious stories. We want to see the action, the races, the cars, the beautiful women, the fights, the exotic locales and the scenery chewing villain. “Fast X” has all that in spades, especially Jason Momoa as Dante Reyes. Momoa is clearly having a great time hamming it up as the big bad that is wrapping up the franchise. Dante is the “Fast” universe version of Batman’s Joker. He’s flamboyant, flippant, brilliant, and effortlessly homicidal. Dante dresses and paints his fingernails in a color that compliments his car. He’s as funny as he is dangerous. Momoa is the best addition to the franchise possibly ever.
The rest of the actors all take a back seat to the action (and Momoa), doing what they can with what they are given in the script written by Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin. Vin Diesel does appear to squeeze out a tear during a scene about midway through the film in a scene set in Rio. The emotion is fleeting, and the rest of his performance is vintage Diesel: Gravelly growling dialog with the occasional barked commands into a walkie-talkie. Charlize Theron is again under-utilized. Of course, with a cast this size, 19 actors credited on the film’s Wikipedia page not counting cameos, even Academy Award winners are going to have a minimal presence to allow the main villain and the long-time stars to shine. I enjoyed Brie Larson’s Tess (Larson is also an Academy Award winner) but found her performance very similar in tone to her recent Nissan car ads. Tyrese Gibson is put slightly more out front leading the Italian mission despite it being a red herring and takes on some responsibility for its failure. He’s also still the film’s comic relief so some things never change. Perhaps the producers are looking at making Roman the next team leader when Dom, Letty and some of the others join Brian in retirement. There’s nothing movie studios love more than beating the same dead money horse if they think there’s another billion dollars to be made.
“Fast X” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material. The car crashes are too numerous to count as some are recycled from “Fast Five” as well as a brief montage of other films in the series. There are countless fist fights, shootings and stabbings. There is one impalement. None of the violence is as bloody as it should be to keep the rating where it is. The suggestive comment is a brief scene of Dom and Letty apparently preparing to have sex, along with the obligatory close ups of women’s behinds at the street race. Foul language is scattered and relatively mild.
“Fast X’ is the very definition of a summer popcorn film. While it is technically not summer, it is late May and movie studios are beginning to return to their pre-pandemic release habits. Big, loud, bombastic crowd pleasers starting in May and running until Labor Day. “Fast X” continues the series trend of ignoring reality and physics to create giant action set pieces and cars that survive practically everything, including giant bomb blasts, driving through concrete walls, dropping out the back of a flying airplane and zooming down the face of a massive dam. Is it a good movie? No. Is it a fun movie filled with humor, action, likable characters and a villain you almost want to win? Yes. Like I said it’s the definition of a summer popcorn movie.
“Fast X” gets four stars out of five.
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