Fast X threatens to become serious but thankfully remains as goofy as ever thanks to a terrific new villain.

 

Fast X (2023)

Directed by Louis Letterier

Written by Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin

Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Mamoa, Tyrese, Charlize Theron, Paget Brewster, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren

Release Date May 19th, 2023

Published May 19th, 2023

What is there to say about Fast X? If you aren’t fully onboard with the utter nonsense that is the Fast and Furious franchise at this point, why are you bothering? I happen to be fully on board for this nonsense. I fell in love with the silly, testosterone fueled gobbledygook in 2001 and have remained in love with this silliness as it morphed from being about street racers pulling small scale criminal heists -they literally stole DVD players and VCRs out of semis in the original- to today when everyone is basically an immortal superhero.

You have to accept a lot of B.S when you accept the Fast franchise. Take, for instance, where we begin in Fast X. Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) begin the film back in L.A, back in what may be their old neighborhood. These are people who still live with a deep, paranoid fear that people are trying to kill them and they are living exactly where anyone trying to find them will find them, very easily, with little to no effort.

The movie openly admits this as the plot kicks off with the person who has hunted them for the past two films, Cypher (Charlize Theron), finds their house and knocks on the door. Cypher is battered and bruised. She’s bleeding from some sort of wound to her abdomen. She tells Dom and Letty that she sought them out because the person who did this is even more evil than herself. He’s so evil that she wants to join their side to fight him.

That man is Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa) whose father, Herman Reyes (Joachim De Almeida). was killed during Fast crew’s heist of a vault full of cash in Rio De Janeiro, as seen in flashback here, and in full in Fast Five. Dante doesn’t want to kill Dom, he wants to make him suffer. That means targeting Dom’s family and trying to kill anyone who has ever helped the Toretto family. Why he doesn’t just roll into the L.A suburbs and do his business, I have no idea.

Instead, Dante, being all kinds of extra, decides to blow up the Vatican and frame Dom’s crew for the crime. It’s as brazen and silly as that sounds. A portion of Vatican City is destroyed but exposition newscaster, one of the unsung heroes of this franchise, tells us that no one was killed. A giant bomb took out a portion of a massive tourist destination and no one was killed. Everyone in the Fast universe is a superhero. I don’t know if this ‘no one was killed’ nonsense extends to the cops chasing Dom and his crew through the streets of Rome but if they didn’t die in a number of fiery car wrecks, there is no death in this universe.

This sequence is utterly bonkers and I loved it. I did. I loved it. It’s total, non-stop, rubbish but it’s so much fun. The bomb is a giant ball that rolls out of the back of a semi-truck and will not stop rolling as if Rome were nothing but a tilted table. At one point, the bomb rolls over a gas pump and the pumps explode. Dom uses his car to shield people on the street from the explosion. The bomb continues to roll but is now on fire as Dom chases it in his super-car. It’s gloriously stupid and I love it.

The bomb catches fire you see. The bomb, catches fire. The bomb is on fire!

If Fast X lacks, it’s due to director Louis Letterier who leans alittle too far into the dour, sourpuss, self-seriousness of Dominic Toretto. Where Justin Lin and F. Gary Gray got how silly this series is and embraced the giddy stupidity, Letterier takes things in the direction that Diesel wants to go, treating the insanity seriously and threatening to upend the strength of this franchise, how it is embraces its own nuttiness and leans into the criticism of it being the loudest, brainless franchise in Hollywood.

My appreciation of the Fast franchise has always been tinged with ironic detachment. But what I love about it is how the movie understands that and makes ignoring the rules of good taste and physics into a feature rather than a bug. Vin Diesel is the only one who seems to see this as a legitimate movie and that tragic lack of self-awareness makes him a figure of hilarious pathos. Thus leaning in his direction is not a good idea. This cannot possibly be taken seriously and Fast X threatens to take itself very, very seriously in a not fun way.

Thankfully, Jason Mamoa and John Cena are both on hand to pop that balloon. While I have some discomfort with some of the odd bits of queer-coding on Mamoa’s character, I loved his energy in Fast X. He’s gone full ham. It’s as if that meme of him about to tackle Henry Cavill on the red carpet for Justice League has come to life, fully caffeinated and powered by pure NOS. Mamoa openly cackles over his own villainy. He’s so broad and so outsized that the film never has a chance to become to serious just because his presence won’t allow it. One of the loudest and most embarrassing laughs I’ve ever experienced came in this movie when Mamoa calls Vin Diesel’s Dom a ‘butthole.’

As for Cena, he’s got a similar energy to Mamoa, a complete lack of gravity or seriousness. Though he was the villain of the previous Fast movie, Cena, as most Fast villains eventually do, became a hero by the end of Fast 9 and now he’s everyone’s goofball Uncle. Cena’s Jacob rescues Dom’s son, Brian and the two go on a comic adventure until the plot needs the boy as a plot device in the third act. I love that Cena is off making a goofy road movie while everyone else is dodging bad guys and bullets. It’s fun.

While I am worried that having Letterier in the directors chair could lead the franchise down the wrong path, he did give us a a bomb rolling down Rome streets while on fire while being chased by Vin Diesel in a super-car. He kind of gets the aesthetic we’re going for here. As long as he doesn’t listen to Vin Diesel and try taking this nonsense seriously we could be alright for the final two movies in the franchise. What? There are two more movies. You haven’t heard? Fast 11 was supposed to be the last but now, it appears, that film was so long that they made the call to make it two movies, like the Matrix sequels.

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