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MRQE Top Critic

Creed II

It's all about the importance of character and the ability to face life's challenges. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Creed II

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Even though it’s one of the most expensive movies ever made, Fast X belongs in the scrap heap.

Humanity Is Missing

Vin Diesel and Rita Moreno
Vin Diesel and Rita Moreno

When names like Vin Diesel, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Jason Momoa are floated, a certain kind of movie comes to mind. Entirely different thoughts enter the picture with names like Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Charlize Theron, Brie Larson and Gal Galdot.

And yet, here we are. All of us. In one place.

The result is quite a load. But a load of what?

Action-packed.

Breathtaking.

Explosive.

But don’t take those as compliments.

Ludicrous.

Debilitating.

All of it with a princely production price tag reportedly landing around $340 million. That’s before all the marketing and fanfare.

For all the blood and treasure poured into this thing, the result features a lot of B-grade CGI, some of the year’s worst acting, cringe-worthy dialogue and a whole lotta action that requires not only the suspension of disbelief, but a catalytic converter for the soul so it doesn’t get compromised by all the toxic discharge on the screen.

Rome Is Burning

It’s hard to think of Fast X as an authentic moviegoing experience. Let’s dissect how the filmmaking and the storytelling in this series has gotten so bad and has turned into nothing more than mayhem for the sake of mayhem.

Let’s start with the concept of perfect knowledge.

Characters are thrust into a foreign environment in the thick of a completely unpredictable, random and rapidly evolving situation with an incalculable number of possible permutations and interactions that could lead to any exponential number of outcomes. And yet these characters react with impeccable precision and barely break a sweat (perhaps a perk of modern automotive air conditioning, given so much of the action revolves shifting sticks and steering wheels).

We’re not talking about Superman sizing up a situation from a 10,000-foot vantage point, then swooping down and righting wrongs.

Jason Momoa
Jason Momoa

We’re talking about human beings — more specifically, gearheads — who instantaneously possess what can only be described as “perfect knowledge” regarding their location and where everybody else is, including the bad guy. It’s like a really bad Marvel movie (think Infinity War).

Dom’s Lips Are Pursing

On the flip side, this bad guy orchestrates chaos based on a masterful understanding of physics (well, let’s dumb that down to “movie physics”) and the anticipated reactions of both the good guys and any number of random people. Everything — and everybody — falls right into place. Impeccably.

Fast X’s storyline repeats this cycle over and over and over again.

The result of all these machinations equates to an emotional heft on par with the drama borne out by 10-year-olds throwing action figures across the living room. Maybe it’s even worse. It’s like watching a series of stunt skits from a theme park stunt show, all strung together with the kind of cringy dialogue found in those same skits. But this stunt show stretches to a rather painful 141 minutes.

Somehow, despite all the chaos, the explosions, the breathless action and the countless lives on the line, Fast X is remarkably lazy. It’s lazy because the focus is almost exclusively on physical movement (with lip service given to “family,” which is now more of a running joke than a heartfelt sentiment). The action is purely the manipulation of the screenwriters (Dan Mazeau — of Wrath of the Titans fame — and Justin Lin, a longtime cog in the Furious machinery) throwing big ideas onto the screen while missing the emotional component, the basic need to sense the potential for failure and that failure would have repercussions.

These characters have no vulnerabilities. Their vehicles — bless ‘em — also have no vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, even Superman has his Kryptonite to give him a modicum of relatability.

Dante Is an Infernal Villain

Okay. This is a Fast & Furious movie. None of these movies is about how the world “works.” Still, there are ways movies work and don’t work.

The preposterousness starts 10 years ago in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a rehashing — a reimagining — of the vault heist from Fast Five, in which a pair of gearheads driving a couple muscle cars steal a vault loaded with cash. It’s a ludicrous action sequence that now introduces a new character, one not at all present in the Fast Five edition: Dante (Jason Momoa), son of Brazilian kingpin Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).

Explosion
Explosion

Momoa desperately tries to bring a Joker-like psychosis to the character of Dante. But let’s be honest. Momoa’s no Heath Ledger. Nor is he on par with Joaquin Phoenix. He’s not even at the same level of Jared Leto, for that matter. Instead, he becomes the worst kind of villain: the nuisance villain. Entitled. Privileged. Vain. Desperately in need of a good smacking around.

The fact Dante is a new by-product of a 10-year-old storyline is itself a desperate act — a lazy act. The sloppiness of his introduction to the narrative is embarrassing and devalues Fast Five as part of its collateral damage.

Series Is Never-ending

Fast X doesn’t have a conclusion. It simply ends. The intent is to make it a cliffhanger, supposedly acting as the penultimate chapter in the series. But, while the action seems to rev it up to 11, it’s disheartening to see director Louis Leterrier is already set to helm the next chapter, which — at least right now — isn’t being referred to as Fast XI (let the mind go wild with Spinal Tap references). No. It’s tentatively titled Fast X: Part Two.

What’s worse is hints are being dropped there’s interest in stretching things out to a Fast X: Part Three. Go for one more. Go for broke with Fast X: Chapter 13.

The insanity.

The Fast & Furious series has expanded wildly beyond its rather humble roots. But it’s expanded to comical proportions. Take the John Wick series as a counterpoint. Another series that started with a simple premise about an assassin in search of solitude whose search is disrupted. With each successive chapter, that world evolves and grows and becomes more intricate. It also becomes more compelling.

Mr. Toretto (and family) should learn some lessons from Mr. Wick.

Instead, this series continues to cherry pick from what’s gone on before. Now that includes an ominous thought shared by Skyfall and Top Gun: Maverick. A thought about how technology is replacing super spies and hot shots. Here, there’s a line that goes something like, “The days when one man could save the world behind the wheel of a car are gone.”

Could that possibly signal the end of this series?

Unlikely.