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‘Fast X’ proves franchise is out of ideas

“Fast X” premiered May 19 in US theaters. It’s rated PG-13. | Universal Pictures
HOLLYWOOD — “F9,” the last entry in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, did something I’d been waiting for years to see in these movies. It sent members of Dom Toretto’s gang to space. It was a singular moment that captured how far these movies had come since the original “Fast” flick debuted in 2001.
The problem is that once you’ve been to space, where else can your franchise go from there? For the makers of “Fast X,” the answer was to re-travel a well-worn road the franchise has traveled several times before.
“Fast X” finds Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in a celebratory mood the day before members of their found family embark on a mission in Italy, led by Roman (Tyrese Gibson). When they realize the mission is a trap, Dom and Letty race to help their friends out, only to run right smack into Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa), the son of a guy they tangled with all the way back in “Fast 5.”
Cue the mayhem.
This movie is the “Fast” franchise’s latest variation on the theme of “rich, powerful baddie comes to take revenge on Dom and his family.” Dom and the gang have been running afoul of rich, powerful baddies for years and they usually tell Dom some variation of, “Your family is your weakness.” This plot is so old, it’s growing grey whiskers.
That bad guy, Reyes, is one of the weakest parts of this movie. Mamoa plays him in such a cartoonish, over-the-top way that it’s hard to take him seriously as a threat. One moment he’s talking about killing everyone Dom cares about; the next, he’s talking about ballet or dancing around like Peter Quill. I get that he’s probably going for menacingly insane but it’s hard to buy that this cat can think coherently, let alone be ten steps ahead of Dom at any moment.
Another weak link is that the dynamic between the characters in Dom’s crew is growing stale. Roman and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) continue to bicker like an old married couple, but now it’s just tired and lacks humor, as if they’ve run out of trash talk so they have to recycle old lines.
On the plus side, director Louis Leterrier is a good fit for this franchise. He knows how to use camera movement and editing to create energy and excitement. The action scenes are fun, even if a good portion of the time you’re watching computer-generated cars crashing and creating CG explosions, CG flames and CG smoke. The early scene involving a giant rolling bomb is like the scene at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” times a thousand.
Also, John Cena adds a bit of levity as Dom’s brother, Jakob. The scene of him rocking out to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was one of the few things in this movie that made me smile.
Overall, “Fast X” isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. But it’s full of lazy writing, one-dimensional characters and tired plotting. They can’t even keep their in-universe laws of physics consistent in these movies. But if you like watching movie stars, “Fast X” gives you plenty of bang for your buck. The action is pretty solid. If you’re looking for some turn-off-your-brain good times, “Fast X” will be hard to beat.
2 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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