REVIEW: Fast X (2023)

I think there is a point at every trip to the funfair when you take one too many rides on the rollercoaster, and wind up vomiting your hot dog and soda onto the pavement. The rides were great, and you had a great time with them, but it turns out that you can have too much of a good thing. Now your joy is tinged with regret, you are feeling a little queasy, and there is a foul taste lingering in your mouth.

Enough about theme parks, let’s talk Fast X.

Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel), accompanied by his ever-growing found family of street racers turned armed robbers turned international spies, has returned for a 10th ride around the track. Very few film series make it to 10 instalments – 11 if you count 2019’s Fast & Furious presents Hobbs & Shaw. If nothing else, Fast & Furious is a colossal achievement in franchise filmmaking. At their best they have presented outstanding and gleefully ridiculous action sequences paired with the most diverse cast of actors in the business. To an extent they have essentially become critic-proof: the cast stay on-theme, the storylines constantly get bigger and more ridiculous, and any adherence to realism has been deliberately abandoned. Dislike a storyline? The story is not the point. Neither is the suspension of disbelief. Ever since the franchise shifted from street racing to international espionage and heists in Fast 5 (2011), you have either been in on the joke or not. Logic? Common sense? The family craves not these things.

Fast 5 is particularly relevant to discussions of Fast X of course, because latest villain Dante Reyes (a flamboyant Jason Momoa) is the son of the earlier film’s central antagonist: Brazilian gangster Hernan Reyes. Exercising a long-planned mission of revenge, Dante unleashes a plot that will separate and endanger Dom and his friends like never before. Or, to be honest, exactly like it has been done before. Not even the introduction of a new director, Louis Leterrier, seems to bring anything fresh.

There are two key problems with Fast X that are actually worth talking about. The first is its narrative structure, which – given Fast & Furious‘ ever-expanding cast – is forced to juggle more characters than its story can accommodate. What is more, it has been promoted as the first part of a two-film franchise finale. There is no climax and resolution here, rather a formulaic cliffhanger ending following more than 140 minutes of action and chase sequences. To find a less satisfying Fast picture, you need to go back to the early 2000s.

The second, far more egregious, problem is that as an ongoing franchise Fast & Furious is running on fumes. The reason Fast 5 felt like such an exceptional work was because it aggressively transformed and updated a tired film series with a new energy, a fresh direction, and smart action ideas. Not a lot has changed since, and the constant repetition has grown well past stale. There is no surprise to see the villains of one film somehow become the beloved co-protagonists of the next. Character deaths no longer have meaning because so many of them have subsequently been reversed. If no one can die, there is no suspense. With no suspense, there is no drama. Each new film simply becomes an exercise in making cars do impossible things with CGI. How weightless is death at this stage of the journey? Fast X includes a scene of a proud uncle gleefully encouraging his eight year-old nephew to murder a bunch of people, and it’s difficult to summon up enough energy to criticise that.

It is well past time to get off the rollercoaster. I applaud Universal Pictures’ choice to end the franchise on their own terms, before the audience grows bored, but I honestly believe they have left the choice too late. Fast X has all of the over-the-top action that we are used to – but that’s just it. It is only all the over-the-top action that we are used to. I’m getting bored.

One thought on “REVIEW: Fast X (2023)

  1. Except for Tokyo Drift and – it was the first one that was basically a remake of Point Break with cars, right? – all of the Fast and Furious movies have blurred into one for me. I think I’ve seen them all, but I could be wrong. Pretty sure the last one I saw had cars dragging a safe.
    I’ve come around to the suggestion you once made that the Fast and Furious movies should become part of the MCU, even if it’s just so we can have Spider-Man say, “That car doesn’t obey the laws of physics!”

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