By Bob Garver
As the tenth (non-spinoff) installment of the “Fast” franchise, “Fast X” has a certain duty to its fans. It needs to up its game from every chapter that came before it. It needs to contain a development so huge, the series will never be the same. It needs to be worthy of having a letter as cool as “X” in its title. Instead what we get is an okay-at-best movie at a point when “okay” is unacceptable.
Vin Diesel is back as street racer-turned-thief-turned-action hero Dominic Toretto. His friends Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Han (Sung Kang), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are going off to Rome for a mission, but he’s going to try letting Roman lead this one while he stays behind with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and son “Little B” (Leo Abelo Perry). Even his Abuelita (Rita Moreno) comes by to see everyone off for what should be a relatively safe mission.
Things don’t stay safe for long. Cipher (Charlize Theron), the lead villain of the eighth and ninth movies, staggers into the Toretto house to warn Dom of a new threat to his friends and family. Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), the son of fifth movie villain Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), wants to make Dom and his whole family suffer for Dom’s role in his father’s death. And he’s willing to kill a whole lot of people in the process. Cue Dominic and Letty showing up in Rome to try to stop Reyes from using the team to blow up the Vatican. Oh, and the unnamed secret agency that has employed Dom in the past is disavowing him and treating him as an enemy by new director Aimes (Alan Ritchson), though agents Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) and new character Tess (Brie Larson) are willing to help where they can.
The splintered storylines that follow include Dom traveling to Brazil to confront Reyes with the help of local street racer Isabel (Daniela Melchior), the team under Roman being broke fugitives in Rome with only the unfriendly Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as an ally, Little B evading kidnappers with the help of his uncle Jakob (John Cena), and Letty and Cipher incarcerated together in an Antarctic prison, with a shocking cameo at the helm of their getaway submarine. Or at least the cameo would be shocking if the series hadn’t already done the same thing twice before. I fully expect a future installment to be similarly “shocking” based on an event from this movie.
So what does the tenth “Fast” movie do to commemorate the franchise’s entry into double digits? Introducing Momoa as the new villain certainly helps. Cipher, dangerous though she was, just wasn’t cutting it with her smart distance-keeping and smug knowledge that the male heroes of this franchise are too chivalrous to hit her. Gleeful nutjob Momoa does just enough of the former to keep an advantage, but he’s not one for the latter. I’m looking forward to a big physical showdown between he and Dom in a future installment.
Which leads me to my big problem with “Fast X”: it does too much to build up the next chapter without having much of an identity of its own. The action scenes may tick all the physics-defying boxes we expect from these movies, but all the while I knew they were just building to a big cliffhanger, not an exciting climax. Add to that the movie never really pushing any boundaries action-wise (Roman and Tej went to outer space in the last movie, Jakob and Little B flying a glider here doesn’t measure up), and an overcrowded collection of characters and subplots and you’ve got one disappointing summer blockbuster. If my interest is engine fuel, then this series has been leaking for the last three movies, and it’s just about out of gas.
“Fast X” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and suggestive material. Its running time is 141 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at email@example.com.