Fast X (2023) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Crash Crash Bang Bang as usual

I feel a bit conflicted about “Fast X”, the latest product from the Fast & Furious franchise. Being as dumb, silly, and preposterous as you can expect from the franchise, the movie has some enjoyable elements, but this is basically a 141-minute teaser for one or two flicks supposed to be the concluding part of the franchise, and, above all, it fails to distinguish itself enough compared to the better films of the franchise.

The opening scene of the movie happens to be the reprise of the climax sequence of “Fast Five” (2011), which was incidentally a major turning point for the franchise in terms of story and characters. Since “Fast Five”, the franchise has become gradually bloated and crowded more and more along with a stream of outrageously spectacular action sequences, and I still remember that hilariously extended action sequence around the end of “Fast and Furious 6” (2013), which features one of the longest airport runways in the movie history.

The main reason for showing that highlight part of “Fast Five” again is pretty simple. Besides showing a bit of late Paul Walker for those target audiences out there, it is for introducing the main villain of the story, who is the vengeful son of the main villain of “Fast Five”. Although he lost everything after his father’s death, this guy subsequently becomes another criminal mastermind to threaten Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family and colleagues, and he even makes Cipher (Charlize Theron) almost overmatched at one point.

Although she has some bad history between herself and Toretto and his family and colleagues due to what happened in “The Fate of Furious” (2017) and “F9” (2021), Cipher notifies to Toretto about the latest menace to come to him, and Toretto and his wife Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) soon fly to Rome, where his opponent has already set a deadly trap for his several colleagues including Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Ludacris). While they manage to save Rome from a big bomb to some degree, Toretto and his colleagues subsequently become fugitives to be chased around the world, and his resentful opponent is certainly going to enjoy that as reaching for his main goal: Destroying everything in Toretto’s life to the end.

I forgot to mention that this villain character is played by Jason Momoa, who has been much more notable since his breakout supporting turn in the first season of HBO TV drama series “Game of Thrones”. Although his character is basically another stock villain to be supplied along the line, Momoa eagerly chews every moment of his with amusing flamboyancy, and I actually wondered whether his character is actually flirting with Toretto in a way not so far from David Cronenberg’s “Crash” (1996). Come to think of it, I would gladly be ready to pay more if Vin Diesel, who seems to be on autopilot here as before, suddenly decides to remake that cult film along with Momoa and some other main cast members from the franchise such as Dwayne Johnson.

One of the recent tendencies of the franchise is its villain characters changing their sides later, and the movie is no exception. In the middle of the movie, Letty happens to be stuck with Cipher, and she has no choice but to work along with Cipher for their joint escape from a maximum-security prison, though she does not hesitate when she learns that there is some spare time for a catfight between them. Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron demonstrate here that they are still not only believable but also electrifying as action movie performers, and that is more than enough for us to overlook how unnecessary the fight scene between them really is.

Meanwhile, John Cena, who previously played Toretto’s villainous brother in “F9”, returns to protect Toretto’s little son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). What occurs between Cena’s character and Brian along their little road trip is a bit amusing for a while at first, but this part fizzles as eventually getting sucked into lots of actions as expected, and then we are left with a big cliffhanger moment which will be probably resolved in the next film to follow.

There are also many other characters coming and going throughout the film, but they do not leave much impression on the whole. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris are occasionally funny in their characters’ humorous interactions in the previous films, but they only come to fill their respective spots merely, and the same thing can be said about Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, and Sung Kang. Although the movie has no less than three Oscar-winning actresses besides Theron, they are not particularly utilized well on the whole, and I must tell you that Brie Larson did a lot more acting when she handled a very rude and crass question at the press conference of the Cannes Film Festival of this year. In addition, I was quite disappointed about Rita Moreno not driving any kind of vehicle in the film. Being 91 at present, this living legend is 14 years older than Helen Mirren, but anything is virtually possible in a movie like this, isn’t it?

Although it is not the bottom of the franchise, “Fast X”, which is directed by Louis Leterrier instead of co-writer/co-producer Justin Lin, is not as good as “Fast Five” or “Furious 7” (2015), and I felt rather detached instead of excited about whatever may come next. Yes, I have been a bit willing to go along with all the outrageous fun and excitement in the franchise for years, and I am also getting quite tired of numerous crashes and bangs, and I think the franchise really needs some fresh fuel in the future.

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