We’ve reached the point in the “Fast and Furious” bell curve where the series has flatlined. In Diesel-flavored irony, the only gravity the series has finally acknowledged is the franchise’s freefall back to earth. After a brief nitrous oxide boost of “stupid fun” in the middle movies, they’ve jettisoned the “fun” but kept pretending that Paul Walker is still alive… It’s gotten weird, right? We can admit that now? There’s a point at which this isn’t “preserving his legacy” and some kind of narrative “Weekend at Bernie’s” schtick that feels grody.
The long-threatened end to the “saga,” in the loosest sense of all four of those letters, has finally arrived. Allegedly, this is the first of a three-part finale. Three. Parts. For all the globe-trotting across the 11 movies, none have really featured the Midwest, which adds to the aforementioned irony, given that this “final act trilogy” is the easiest way to describe what a “Midwestern goodbye” feels like on the inside.
Anyway, “Fast X” is dumb, ugly, and awkward. It is goofy in the bad way, not goofy in the awesome way or goofy in the “Gawrsh!” way, either of which would have been better. It is uninspired, awkward, and the opposite of escapism. Few things can make you feel as trapped as looking at the time and realizing you still have hours ahead of watching folks who have no interest in acting make obligatory noises with their faces. Except for you, Charlize. You are doing what you can, and we love you.
As the series simply cannot stop itself from doing, the bad guy is yet again a relative of someone from a previous film. It’s Dante, a bad Nicolas Cage impression worn by Jason Momoa. He seems like the only one having fun, but maybe that’s because he did a “Face/Off” riff for months and nobody on set called him on it. He’s not intimidating so much as a silly, silly Billy. He shows up, not to kill Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his grand-theft-auto Scooby gang, but to make them “suffer” for murdering his pops in that one “Fast and Furious” movie where they dragged a vault around like a wrecking ball.
Remember how fun and cool that one was?
You don’t have to. The first half hour is just them literally replaying the best part of it with Momoa digitally inserted in the background looking pissy. In present day, Dante tries to blow up the Vatican and pin it on the Toretto family. He then takes all their money and gets Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) locked up in super-secret prison. John Cena goes on a plane ride with Dom’s kid while Tyrese and Ludacris incessantly bicker in London. Those actors may all have character names, but if they aren’t going to give them actual storylines after a jillion movies, nobody should have to remember them.
Nobody is trying. Nobody. Not even kinda. The script is a Frankenstein’s monster of flashbacks and repetitive action beats that feel so un-furious as to beg ennui. Even the most die-hard of “Fast” fans will root for the villain, and not because he’s “cool” so much as he’s at least doing something. For a while, the series was something special, a diverse and liberated spectacle of oddly compassionate bravado and bombast. Now, it must simply die and die faster. The ferocity of the death is up them.
The phrase “Never accept death when suffering is owed” gets repeated several times.
What suffering do we still owe?
When is our debt complete?
What more must we give?
“Fast X” has broken me upon its wheel, split me upon its axel. I’ll give you whatever you want, just make Diesel stop flexing, Cena stop mugging, and the word “family” stop losing all meaning. Between this and Elon Musk, if we have to get rid of all cars, I will proudly climb aboard a Segway or horse or just rollerblade everywhere. Nothing is worth this noisy, vapid futility. I will walk, dammit. I will walk. Maybe only when we are all just pedestrians, this can finally end.
Grade = F
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Wesley Morris at The New York Times says “The series doesn’t need Momoa’s vamping. The camp was always coming from inside the garage, the way these movies operated in defiance of physics, chronology, narrative logic and DNA. Their subject was criminals conflicted about going legit. Now they’re practically a government agency, out protecting the planet — and they’re so far through the moral looking glass that everybody looks too comfortable.”
Rosa Parra at In Their Own League says “Be warned that you’re walking into a poorly written film whose sole saving grace is Momoa’s performance.”
Sarah Gopaul at Digital Journal says “the film’s biggest downfall is perhaps the thing that’s tied all the movies together: its emphasis on ‘family.’ It’s a concept that was made top priority day one and has continued to be the glue for more than two decades. But it’s so heavily underscored in this movie, it becomes a punchline.”