'Fast X' review: Engine failure
Series sputters out of control with abysmal 10th entry.
Talk about running out of gas.
The "Fast and Furious" series completely breaks down with the supersized, brain-dead "Fast X," a loud, clunky, interminable exercise in engine revving and wheel spinning. The cast and plot of this monstrosity are so ungainly that even with several continents worth of action and a dozen big names — four of whom are Academy Award-winning actresses! — it never locates anything resembling a center, or comes close to embodying the idea of "family" around which the series is based. For a supposed high-performance sports car, "Fast X" runs like a broken-down jalopy.
Even by the loose standard of the "Fast" films, a series which hit its stride with "Fasts" 5-7 and has been slowing down ever since, "Fast X" is a victim of its own bloat and lack of grounding. And this is a series whose last chapter, 2021's "F9," notably saw Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson driving a car in outer space.
The writing is on the wall from the very first scene, which tosses back the action to 2011's series rebooter "Fast Five," and that film's memorable vault heist through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. That scene isn't recreated, it's just replayed, with new bad guy Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa, who we'll get to in a minute) retconned into the proceedings.
Dante is the son of Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), "Fast Five's" drug lord baddie, and Hernan's death at the hands of Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and his gang leaves Dante with a score to settle, even though it takes him, oh, a dozen years to act on it.
Until Dante starts mucking around, Dom and crew — there's Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Han (Sung Kang) and even Dom's grandmother (Rita Moreno) — are enjoying one of the Toretto fam's signature backyard barbecues, where the Coronas flow like unleaded gasoline.
But trouble arrives when Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up at Toretto's doorstep, bruised and battered, after having been paid a visit by a very angry Dante. It seems Dante has a plan for Dom and crew, which involves blowing up Rome with a cartoon-sized bomb that rolls around the streets of the city like a 10-foot pinball. How does Dom's crew plan to stop it? With cars, of course. What franchise do you think this is?
The action then bounces to London, over to Portugal, down to Rio and even to Antarctica, as Brie Larson is folded into the story as the daughter of rogue agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, not on screen) and Helen Mirren makes a brief appearance as the mother of Deckard (Jason Statham, who does make an appearance). The cast is as scattered as the script, which is constantly introducing or reintroducing characters, and even Pete Davidson shows up in a scene involving, you guessed it, weed.
It's a joyless slog of explosions, wisecracks and even sci-fi plot elements, with nothing to gravitate toward or hold onto. Director Louis Leterrier (the "Transporter" films) came on after Justin Lin left the director's chair (Lin is still credited as one of three contributing writers), and the behind-the-scenes tumult is evident on screen, and can be read in Diesel's blanker-than-usual looking expressions. As the axis of the "Fast" universe, he's never looked so lost.
Back to Momoa: His Dante is described as the Devil himself but he's more like Heath Ledger's Joker filtered through Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow and "Pee-wee's Big Adventure's" Francis Buxton, as styled by Tyler Durden. (If that doesn't make any sense, neither does the performance.) Momoa plays him loudly and garishly but without any consistency or sense of creating a character, he's all flamboyance and grandstanding and "look at what I'm doing!" energy, which isn't as subversive or transgressive as he'd like to think it is. He's not serving the movie but he looks like he's at least having fun, which puts him on a short list among the cast.
John Cena, returning from "F9," is put to better use, as he's placed in protector mode, tasked with keeping Dom's kid Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) safe while Daddy's out blowing stuff up in cars. Cena, too, is on his own planet in his own movie, making a kid-friendly action comedy, but his scenes work, which stands out since so little else in "Fast X" does.
Ten entries is obviously rare air for a series, and no one is expecting a tight character study at this point in the "Fast" experience. But the practical stunt work and clean visual effects that marked the series' best entries and moments has been left in the dust, replaced by pure absurdity and poorly rendered visuals that whoosh over the screen in a blur of fake-looking video game-style graphics. All things considered, the "Friday the 13th" series was in better shape when it hit "Jason X." ("Fast," notably, got to outer space one entry before "Friday" did.)
The "Fast" saga has hit its share of bumps over the last 22 years — 2001's original "The Fast and the Furious" was by no means a masterwork, let's remember — but "Fast X" feels like the end of the road for the series. Of course it ends on a cliffhanger, which means it will live to race another day, but this one's tough to come back from. It's time to hang up the car keys for good.
Rated PG-13: for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material
Running time: 141 minutes