Fast X (2023)

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FAST X
Directed by Louis Leterrier

22 years ago, if someone had told me the Fast and the Furious would still be around today, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s not that it was a bad movie – on the contrary, it was passable entertainment. Yet there wasn’t anything unique about it. It was basically the plot of Point Break, with the waves traded for the road. But here we are in 2023. It’s the longest-running series to keep most of the same characters, and we have the first of what’s rumoured to be a three-film swan song with one of the most star-studded casts around. Not bad for a forgettable piece about DVD player thieves. Of course, that’s not all they’ve been, and since the starting lap, they’ve acted as hijackers, smugglers, jailbreakers, train robbers, and eventually world-savers. As one of The Agency members says, “if it could be done in a car, they did it.”

This time the family’s eventful past is coming at top speed in the rear-view mirror. It starts with them enjoying one of their signature barbecues with sentimental bromantic bonding over a bucket of ice-cold Corona – usually how these films end. However, that night Dom has a surprise guest show up – one of the many weirdly good actors to have appeared in a Fast film. As they sit on his sofa attending to their injuries, they warn him “the devil” is coming. Enter Dante, played by Jason Momoa. He’s the son of a crime lord Dom and Co., killed during the heist sequence Fast Five (still up there with Furious 7 as the high point). And this being a film about family, in a series about family, he’s pissed and will stop at nothing to get revenge, including killing Dom’s family. He starts his quest by feeding Tej and Roman bogus information, sending them to the beautiful city of Rome. Strap in for another globe-zooming adventure.

In a way, the series is a victim of its success. Since the fifth, it’s been embracing its more far-fetched aspects, and the drive to keep upping the ante means there’s only so far they can still go. And with such a huge line-up, it means not all of them get much to do, so some big names, like Jason Statham and Brie Larson, are relegated to mere cameos. Still, to its credit, Fast X can still find new ways to entertain, and this one does a commendable job of managing plotlines all over the world. It’s the obligatory 2.5-hour running time, but there are enough car chases, explosions, and shoot-outs that it never feels like it’s stalling. Think of it as Infinity War for petrolheads. There’s a momentum that begins early on and rarely lets off. And while nothing in this matches the previous entry’s trip to space for sheer stupidity, it still has the spectacular stunts and gravity-defying physics audiences have come to expect. In particular, a pinball sequence in Rome involving a giant bomb is among the least possible things that have happened in the franchise.

The film’s standout is undoubtedly Jason Momoa. He’s an actor I’ve only ever seen in serious roles, Khal Drogo and Aquaman, so I didn’t realise he could do comedy. But here he’s uninhibited, freed from the shackles of traditional onscreen masculinity, and just going for it. He’s funny, flamboyant, and practically dances through each scene. Where other baddies would make samey statements about revenge, he’s busy telling Dom “the carpet matches the drapes.” He can also take a wrecking ball to the fourth wall, commenting on the ridiculousness of the movies and even winking at the numerous family memes that have spread online. It’s a testament to his performance that he still retains his threat through the whole film, partially because he’s so unpredictable. In this respect, there are hints of Heath Ledger’s Joker here, and he has a similar psychopathy. But where the Joker was nihilistic, depressive and had a death wish, Dante takes sheer joy in causing carnage. It’s a huge step up from Cena in F9, who matched Vin Diesel’s mood rather than leaning on his own charisma (a mistake addressed in this one where the family’s habit of recruiting former enemies means he’s got goofy uncle charm). Definitely the series’ best villain to date.

Look, reviewing this is a bit of a fool’s errand. Fast X doesn’t reinvent the wheel – by now, the model is reliable enough that they’re only giving it minor tweaks and upgrades – so it won’t change anyone’s mind. If it ain’t broke, why take it to the garage? However, this means it still has the same flaws as the other entries: a slightly unfocused mid-section, a reliance on mediocre comedy, a wasted subplot where comic-relief Roman wants to be taken more seriously and some of cinema’s least relatable heroes. Moreover, Diesel’s constant gravely melodramatic musings about love and faith make me wonder if he’s aware of why people watch these. His recent comparison between himself and Fellini would imply not. Perhaps to him it’s a Shakesperian tale that uses action to entertain the galleries, but for the rest of us it’s big, dumb fan that borders of self-parody. The cliffhanger ending also seems somewhat sadistic when we’re potentially years away from seeing a resolution. Still, those seeking a cinematic thrill-ride can’t go far wrong. Be sure to hang about for a neat mid-credit sequence, including another cameo. I’m going to miss this series when it’s gone.

 

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About david.s.smith 459 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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