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I had the best time at the comedy event of the year: Fast X.
I’m not being entirely facetious. I genuinely enjoyed myself, laughing up a storm at this outrageously bad movie—the rare case when the phrase “so bad, it’s good” actually applies. It was an escalation in amusement, too.
When the movie began, I was gobsmacked by how terrible it was. The attempts at exposition made no sense. The dialogue was preposterous. Even the first few action set pieces weren’t that impressive—hard to follow and visually flat. Action is supposed to be this franchise’s whole thing! I wasn’t just having a bad time. I was actively irritated by what I was watching.
But then things started to take a turn. It was maybe around the 47th time someone earnestly made a reference to Dom (Vin Diesel) and the importance of family. I had finally been broken. Each outrageously sincere discussion of “family”—the global network of street-racing grifters and their various agency friends—chipped away at me, like a ludicrous chisel attacking my capability for credulity: that what I was watching was real, and really that horrible.
Eventually I shattered. Any fortitude I had been maintaining in an attempt to scrutinize Fast X in the way that I would any other film splintered into pieces. I started giggling. I couldn’t stop. Then, the laughter energized me. It enthused me.
Before I knew it, I was slapping my thighs, as each new line of dialogue during the film’s climax was worse than the one before it. When, during a high-speed chase, a child climbs onto the roof of a car and starts dismantling weapons, I hooted. When that same child leapt out of one vehicle’s window and into that of another, I hollered. When a major character had disappeared during a shootout—ostensibly because no one knew how to involve him in the plot—and then, once it was over, just popped up on screen again, I started applauding. An ovation for outrageous levels of cinematic buffoonery.
Jason Momoa appears in this, the 10th installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, as its Big Bad. He’s Dante, the son of someone Dom had killed many, many years ago, and he’s randomly decided that now is the time to exact revenge. Why now? Don’t be ridiculous. The Fast and Furious series operates under Fight Club rules: The first rule of Fast and Furious plotting is don’t ask questions about Fast and Furious plotting. What happens in Fast X happens. It just does. And we accept it, because that’s what you do when you’re family. (After surviving all two hours and 20 minutes of this movie, I feel as if I can call these people my family now.)
Momoa’s performance as Dante doesn’t walk the tightrope of taste as much as it takes that rope, twists it into a tangled knot, sets that knot on fire, mixes the ashes with glitter, and then throws handfuls of the sparkling dust in the air and dances underneath it.
Dante is flamboyant, effeminate, and quirky, which he subverts into an exaggerated, menacing, and imposing figure. He’s flashy and cheeky, with a mannered physicality meant to unsettle you. You can tell that someone—be it Momoa, the director, the writer… who knows—thinks he’s doing intense and impressive villain work, in the vein of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Instead, it is more akin to someone who is blatantly trying to do villain work in the vein of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but wildly missing the mark.
At first, I thought I was offended by all of this. By the end, my broken, chuckling self thought it was a riot. Moreover, one has to appreciate that Momoa at least appears to be having fun, which shouldn’t be an anomaly in the 10th installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, for God’s sake. Yet the massive cast is shockingly grave and morose for most of the film, save for one celebrity cameo that had me shrieking. Once I decided I was going to pivot watching this film into a pleasant experience, I chose to cheer for Momoa’s baffling performance as Dante, too.
So what is the plot of Fast X, anyway? I truly do not know. I know that I sat in the theater for nearly two and a half hours, that my eyes were open, my ears listening, and my brain working. OK, yes, at one point I left for a few minutes to use the bathroom, refill my drink, and answer a few emails. But I doubt that someone bothered to actually explain what in the hell was going on in this movie during that exact time I was gone.
That leads me to what is either my most depressing observation about the film, or maybe the most encouraging. I haven’t decided how to spin it. There’s so much talk about artificial intelligence right now, and its potential to replace screenwriters by scripting movies. More than any piece of pop culture I have ever seen, Fast X seems like it could have been scripted by AI.
Dozens of characters from past Fast and Furious movies sporadically appear, often with no context or reason, as if an algorithm searched through the franchise, pulled recognizable faces, and placed them in the film.
The action set pieces don’t have any correlation to the plot, and there’s even a sequence from a past film that’s thrown in as a flashback with almost no explanation. (It’s not until you see the late Paul Walker on screen that you fully process it as a flashback.) And the scenes that stitch those action segments together contain a kind of Fast and Furious-like dialogue that plays as if someone was trying to parody the franchise—or, you know, asked a computer to mock a simulation of what a Fast and Furious script might sound like.
An actual line from the film, and not a Saturday Night Live spoof of it: “Without honor, you got no family. Without family, you got nothing!” Absolutely ghastly. And yet, by the point it was uttered, with painful seriousness, I was nearly moved to leap out of my seat and applaud. Oh, how I laughed.
I realized that, as tempting as it is to be annoyed that a movie is inexcusably bad and will make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office (while others that are more deserving struggle for an audience), sometimes you have to disengage from principle. This was the silliest movie I’ve ever seen. But I was in that theater anyway. Why not enjoy it?
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