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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Richard Roeper

‘Fast X’ draws out the chases, fights to the point of tedium

Dom (Vin Diesel) is off on a solo mission in “Fast X.” (Universal Pictures)

Here’s your reminder “The Fast and the Furious” was based on a true story as chronicled in a 1998 Vibe magazine article, and that the original film from 2001 is a somewhat grounded crime film with Paul Walker’s LAPD Officer Brian O’Conner going undercover to infiltrate a gang of street racers and thieves led by Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto.

Cut to the year 2023, and nobody, I mean NOBODY, expects realism or logic when it comes to the “FF” movies, which have grown bigger and more bloated, with Dom and his friends (and foes) performing feats of daring and strength and gravity-defying driving that would have Speed Racer and Captain America giving them a standing ovation.

Everyone’s in on the joke now, eagerly anticipating the next insanely ridiculous set piece: Dom and Brian drag a bank vault through the streets of Rio! “Zombie cars” fly from a New York City parking garage! Tej and Roman fly a souped-up Pontiac Fiero into outer space! And when all is said and done, we get a speech about the importance of family—even though the carnage we’ve just witnessed has almost certainly created a ton of collateral damage, and a lot of families will be attending memorial services while Dom and his “fam” enjoy a backyard barbecue with some product-placement beer.

‘Fast X’

With an unnecessarily long running time of 139 minutes, a globe-trotting and convoluted plot that careens all over the place and, yes, a bounty of entertainingly cartoonish action sequences, “Fast X” is like a classic rock band that plays a greatest-hits concert and pads every song with a guitar solo and a drum solo. It is arguably the most self-aware of the “FF” films (there’s a highlight-reel scene in which a government operative takes us through some of those most ridiculous stunts) and it features a number of twists and turns that surely will thrill some fans while irritating others due to the arbitrary nature of these developments—but it feels as if director Louis Leterrier is almost deliberately testing our patience by extending every single fight scene, every chase, every shootout, to the point where the excitement gives way to tedium.

The chief antagonist in “Fast X” is Jason Momoa’s Dante Reyes, the son of drug lord Hernan Reyes, who as you might but probably don’t recall was killed back in the 2011 film “Fast Five.” Dressed like a Vegas magician, given to flamboyant gestures and crazy cackling, Dante is a psychopath obsessed with avenging his father’s death by destroying everything Dom holds dear before taking out Dom himself. (I guess he had to wait a dozen years before the right sequel came along.) As Charlize Theron’s villainous Cipher puts it, she thought she was the devil until she met Dante, but the guy comes across as more of a preening, performance-art, sociopathic clown than a truly menacing villain.

Jason Momoa plays ‘Fast X” villain Dante Reyes, determined to avenge the death of his drug lord father. (Universal Pictures)

Returning regulars include Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty, who is married to Dom and helping to raise his son, Brian (Leo Abelo Perry); Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Ludacris’ Tej, who never stop bickering and bantering; John Cena’s Jakob Toretto, brother of Dom; Nathalie Emmanuel’s computer genius Ramsay; Sung Kang’s expert drifter Han Lue, and Jordana Brewster’s Mia, sister of Dom and Jakob. (The late Paul Walker’s Brian, Mia’s husband and Dom’s BFF, remains an alive albeit offscreen presence in the series.)

Everyone slips comfortably into their roles and does what they can with the goofy dialogue and the death-defying, logic-defeating stunt sequences. (It’s particularly hilarious when Mia is under siege from a dozen heavily armed tactical officers and starts throwing them around as if she’s the Hulk.)

As “Fast X” zips from Los Angeles to Rome to Rio (cue the swirling shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue) to London to Portugal to Antarctica, the dense screenplay packs in a myriad of cameos and surprise returns, while also bringing aboard new characters such as Brie Larson’s Tess, the daughter of Mr. Nobody; Daniela Melchior’s Isabel, a street racer with a secret tie to Dom’s past, and Rita Moreno’s Abuelita Toretto, grandmother of Dom, Jakob and Mia. (Let’s pause for a moment to consider that with Moreno, Helen Mirren as Magdalene Shaw, Theron and Larson, “Fast X” has four Academy Award winners in its ranks.)

In typical “Fast/Furious” fashion, allies sometimes become opponents while former enemies become allies, and you never know who might pop up out of the blue. Dom, Letty and Jakob are each splintered from the core group, with Dom going rogue/solo/whatever to face down Dante, while Letty is held in a black site prison from which there is no escape (yeah right) and Jakob is tasked with protecting little Brian, aka B., who doesn’t seem the least bit traumatized by the carnage and destruction he’s witnessing while under the protection of Uncle Jakob.

“Fast X” is just the first half of the franchise finale, as it ends on a number of cliffhangers. The closing moment features a development so insanely over the top, even for this franchise, that you can’t help but laugh at the sheer audacity of the filmmakers. Give ‘em this much, they’re wholly embracing the madness.


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