Even More Ludacris and Exhausting Than You Think

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Fast & Furious is one of Hollywood’s all-time most lucrative franchises. It is also one of its dumbest, and that inanity continues apace—by which I mean, at breakneck speed—with Fast X, the tenth (!) chapter in what has become a monument to absurd action-extravaganza excess, laughable platitudes about family, and Vin Diesel’s superhero-sized ego.

It’s additionally a summer-season series that allows myriad actors not on the Marvel and DC payrolls (and a handful who are!) to earn blockbuster salaries, which is about the only excuse for the majority of these individuals to be wasting their talents on such nonsense.

It’s been 12 years since Fast & Furious remade itself from a saga about street racing into some sort of bizarre quasi-Mission: Impossible rip-off, with Diesel’s Dominic Toretto reimagined as an invulnerable badass who works for a covert government agency (known as, ahem, The Agency) to thwart dastardly international criminals.

That transformation never made sense, but from 2011’s Fast Five on, the franchise’s celebration of multicultural unity and vehicular outrageousness has helped obscure its baseline illogicality. Even so, the finish has begun to wear off, peaking with F9’s decision to send Ludacris’ Tej and Tyrese Gibson’s Roman—comedic foils who’ve yet to utter a legitimately funny word in eight movies—into space via a rocket-propelled roadster, which felt like a move designed to preempt any parodies about the dim-bulb lengths to which these films will go to one-up their predecessors.

Fast X features no flights to the stars, nor similar instances of heroes doing ridiculous things like redirecting fired rockets with their bare hands à la Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in The Fate of the Furious. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of preposterousness to be found in this sequel, which barely revs to life when indulging in automotive mayhem and outright stalls every time its human characters open their mouths. No matter which cliché you choose—the series is running out of gas/spinning its wheels/stuck in neutral—Dom and company’s latest exploits are perhaps their most exhaustingly “extreme” to date, not to mention their dimmest.

Turning inward on itself to a ludicrous degree, Fast X begins with a prologue that retcons Fast Five, revealing that when Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) dragged drug lord Hernan Reyes’ (Joaquim de Almeida) vault through Rio de Janeiro (killing the baddie in the process), they gravely injured the villain’s heretofore-unknown son Dante (Jason Momoa). Ten years later, Dante reemerges, intent on fulfilling his dad’s wish that Dom suffer before he dies for this theft.

Why Dante waited a full decade to exact his revenge is never properly explained, but logic isn’t these proceedings’ strong suit. Neither, it turns out, is action, this despite director Louis Leterrier giving it his best over-the-top shot, employing an abundance of zooming, soaring, whooshing camerawork in an effort to keep the energy high. All that sound and fury, alas, feels tired and desperate, and the fact that Leterrier recycles a knocking-a-bomb-off-a-car’s-undercarriage trick from his Transporter 2 only underlines his lack of imagination.

Virtually everyone who’s appeared in a prior Fast & Furious film pops up here, and none of them look particularly thrilled about it. Ludacris and Tyrese half-heartedly engage in ball-busting banter, Jason Statham flashes a few grimaces, John Cena does his earnestly goofy routine, and Scott Eastwood and Brie Larsen (the latter playing the daughter of Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody) blankly glare during their brief screen time.

As Dom’s beloved Letty, Michelle Rodriguez snarls and yells per tradition, and Reacher’s Alan Ritchson struts around in shirts that are two sizes too small, the better to show off his massive frame. Charlize Theron mostly plays exhausted as super-cyber-criminal Cipher, while Sung Kang looks downright miserable as resurrected Dom pal Han. Even Helen Mirren and Jordana Brewster do some drive-by work, the latter in a scene that asks us to believe that the physically slight actress is capable of taking down a cadre of heavily armed soldiers.

There are so many cameos and callbacks littered throughout Fast X that its story feels secondary. That turns out to be a good thing, since Dante’s plot—killing everything Dom loves, most notably his son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry)—is a drawn-out affair in which the fiend gives Dom every opportunity imaginable to escape harm.

Momoa is the only one who seems to be having any fun, although there’s a debate to be had about whether his brazenly queer-coded performance (all hip-thrusting, brightly painted fingernails, ornate rings, shimmering shirts, chitchat about masculinity standards, and pronouncements like “I’m Dante, au chante!” and “The carpet matches the drapes!”) is colorful or distasteful. Either way, it’s still more tolerable than writers Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin’s third grade-level dialogue. Every utterance is a trailer-tailored bromide (“Sometimes fear can be the best teacher;” “Without honor, you got no family. Without family, you got nothing!”; “The fallout will be existential!”) and, moreover, worse than the last.

Diesel himself glowers, bellows, and poses with typical He-Man-ish confidence, his Dom now so thoroughly rendered a cartoon that his impossible feats (knocking a flaming bomb off-course with his car; plummeting from a plane in his Dodge, and then driving down the wall of a dam) are less awe-inspiring than awfully dull.

Dom’s invincibility neuters any suspense, just as Fast X’s overpopulated plot shortchanges everyone. It’s a film that’s content to simply put new spins on old centerpieces, and the brief sound of a Harry Potter musical theme only exacerbates the sense that Leterrier’s installment is a retread designed to keep the IP afloat regardless of whether there’s anything novel left to do with these characters, their soap opera entanglements, or their turbo-charged vehicles.

Intended as the first half of a two-part franchise finale (which may now become a trilogy, God forbid), Fast X closes on a monumental cliffhanger. However, given that there’s zero chance its main characters (save for one) are in serious danger of meeting their maker, it proves to be one more affected gesture in a fiasco stuffed full of them, be it sight of Dom crying over a deceased love, wistfully gazing at old photos of himself and Walker’s Brian, or clutching his crucifix as a means of expressing his deep (and oft-referenced) faith. Bloated, listless and unintentionally hilarious, it’s a spectacular wreck.

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