Fast X review: This franchise is running out of gas

Fast X banks on the nostalgia of fans who still hold Fast Five in high regard, hoping to recapture the magic of that pivotal installment. Released in 2011, Fast Five elevated the franchise to new heights by bringing together all the stars from the previous four films, creating a formidable team akin to the Avengers. However, the subsequent sequels have struggled to replicate its success, often resorting to repetitive cyber-heists and celebrity cameos.

Director Louis Leterrier’s latest offering, Fast X, opens with a nostalgic nod to Fast Five, quite literally recycling footage from its climactic bank vault heist in Rio de Janeiro. This time, the scene is awkwardly repurposed to introduce a new character, Dante Reyes (played by Jason Momoa), as the son of Fast Five’s antagonist, Hernan Reyes. While this attempt to inject new life into the franchise may seem ingenious, it comes off as contrived and cheap. Momoa’s presence adds little to the scene, and his forced integration feels more like a desperate ploy than a meaningful addition. Nonetheless, it’s a far cry from the egregious CGI resurrection seen in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but it’s nonetheless irksome.

Vin Diesel and Daniela Melchior in 'Fast X'

It would be one thing if Fast Five director Justin Lin were at the helm, as he was originally supposed to be after returning to the franchise for 2021’s F9, but Lin mysteriously dropped out as director of Fast X less than a week into filming. That makes the recycled footage feel a bit too much like stealing valor by ripping off the work of a master action filmmaker to make this less-stellar successor seem more important.

In any case, the plot of Fast X (out this weekend) follows Dante’s revenge scheme against Dom for killing his father. This isn’t “eye for an eye,” though; Dante believes that he should “never accept death when suffering is owed.” So rather than kill Dom, Dante seeks to hurt him by targeting his beloved family that you’ve heard so much about. First introduced in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, Dom’s son Brian Marcos has grown from a baby into a young teenager (Leo Abelo Perry) who’s inherited his dad’s love of cars. Naturally, he is Dante’s primary target.

Momoa plays Dante like a flamboyant Disney villain, which is a cute change of pace but fits uneasily in the world of the movie. No question this franchise is silly — remember when Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) went to space in the last one? — but having one character constantly ridiculing the others and making mockery of everything feels maybe a little too on-the-nose.

Fast X

Following the flashback that reshapes the narrative, Fast X falls into the trap of relying on clichés to elevate Dante’s threat level. Cipher, the franchise’s former antagonist, appears at Dom’s doorstep, battered and bruised, emphasizing Dante’s diabolical nature compared to her own. It’s a tired plot device.

Since Fast Five’s success rivaled that of Mad Max: Fury Road, integrating its star into the franchise seemed logical, yet Charlize Theron’s potential remains largely untapped. Despite her impressive action chops, she’s been underutilized, relegated to glass boxes and hacking sequences. In Fast X, she finally gets a chance to showcase her combat skills, but the fact that Theron, known for her role as Imperator Furiosa, still hasn’t been behind the wheel raises eyebrows.

New characters also enter the fray in Fast X. Alan Ritchson joins as Aimes, taking over Kurt Russell’s spy agency but with a decidedly less amicable attitude towards Dom’s crew. Brie Larson makes an appearance as Tess, Mr. Nobody’s daughter, adding complexity to the mix. However, amidst the multitude of new and returning faces, including John Cena’s Jakob Toretto, now in a more heroic role, it’s challenging to grasp Tess’s significance. Despite the abundance of Mr. Nobody references, her character’s depth remains elusive.

Fast X

Tess’ introduction in a biker bar scene feels eerily reminiscent of a similar moment in Captain Marvel, adding to the déjà vu plaguing Fast X. Beyond its attempts to ride the coattails of Fast Five’s success, the film veers into superhero territory, with Dom channeling Captain America by deflecting bullets with a car door. Moments mirroring Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy seem intentional, particularly in the film’s first action sequence where Dom races to thwart a city-threatening bomb, akin to The Dark Knight Rises’ climax.

The blend of serious stakes and Momoa’s campy portrayal creates tonal dissonance. Are we meant to feel threatened or enjoy the ride? Fast X’s shift towards superhero tropes blurs the line between the franchise’s originality and Marvel’s formulaic storytelling. What once set Fast apart from the superhero saturation was its unique brand of blockbuster spectacle. However, with Fast X, the distinction fades, and the film succumbs to serialized storytelling, culminating in a cliffhanger ending masquerading as finality. “The end of the road begins” serves as a fitting yet paradoxical tagline, encapsulating the film’s attempt at closure while leaving the door wide open for future installments.

 

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