Movie Review: ‘Fast X’ shows the franchise still up to old tricks
For The Aspen Times
In “Fast X,” the Fast and Furious franchise is forced to learn the pro-wrestling rule that once you jump off a 5-foot post, you’ve got to jump off a 10-foot ladder, then a 20-foot cage, and next a 40-foot scaffolding. Eventually, there’s nothing left to jump off of, the audience gets bored, and you’re going to have to tell a story.
The series has gone into space and has gone underwater, and now there’s nothing else to do except to try to remember how to tell a story. The story here is carried by its characters, both old and new members of the infamous Corona-slugging family.
Its studio, Universal, is sans a superhero property, so they cling to this profit churner, clutching tighter than a starving pterodactyl. They throw oodles and oodles of money at not just special effects, but also toward their casting, each installment bringing in a new superstar.
Like a weigh station for fame, burgeoning A- and B-listers come in to check where they’re at. John Cena returns as his usual, effortlessly-charming self. Somebody was mean enough to put Vin Diesel across from Brie Larson for a dialogue scene in which she acts circles around him.
But it is Jason Momoa lending his handsome magnetism that makes the 150-minute runtime redeemable. Dancing around in impeccable costume design, he starts with trying to blow up the Vatican with an inflamed, bouncing sphere bomb, throws down a challenge for an old-school street race, and most notably, has his hair put up in adorable space buns during one scene.
Around him, the machine still knows what they’re doing. Mini-guns go whirr, booming soundtracks play over gorgeous B-roll of city skylines, with bouncing foxy butts mixed in for ambiance, and the action sequences are so outlandish that squeals of delight emit from the audience during several of them. Godfather Diesel has admitted that they’re beginning to wind down, so work is put into devolving the characters back to base zero.
It could lead to a finale where they shrink the scope and return to their roots, but I doubt it. After 10 movies, and one failed spinoff that has been mercifully forgotten, they’re floating in post-modern space. Way beyond irony, they’re reaching a driving glove deep into art’s dregs and coming up completely devoid of self-awareness.
I like Vin Diesel. At one point, I could have been called a Diesel apologist with performances in “Boiler Room” and “The Iron Giant” that are blindly overlooked; but now, he thinks he is Dom Torreto, so he shouldn’t have to act as Dom Torreto. He is the focal point of the flick but also is its greatest weakness.
At what point does campiness lose its charm and just become annoying? “Fast X” tightropes that line, leaning side-to-side precariously often but still never falling off.